Skip to main content

Opening of massive NSA data center delayed by costly electrical meltdowns

Opening of massive NSA data center delayed by costly electrical meltdowns

Share this story

The NSA has suffered hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage to hardware at its top-secret Utah Data Center over the past 13 months. Frequent electrical meltdowns are the culprit for the setbacks, which have pushed back the facility's opening by a year according to The Wall Street Journal. But officials have had significant difficulty pinpointing the cause of the meltdowns; the Utah center has been hit with at least 10 of them, and investigations have only resulted in satisfactory explanations for two incidents. The most recent electrical problem occurred just last month, and each reportedly causes as much as $100,000 in damage. Described as "a flash of lightning inside a 2-foot box," the meltdowns have involved explosions, melted metal components, and caused numerous circuits to fail.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage

According to The Wall Street Journal, NSA officials had hoped to turn on some of its computer systems in Utah this week, but remain hesitant to do so until any remaining electrical concerns are sorted out. Their caution is understandable; the facility is expected to house unprecedented amounts of data pulled from the NSA's expansive surveillance efforts in the US and abroad. Construction is estimated to be around $1.4 billion, and that's not even including the powerful Cray supercomputers that will serve as the brains of the facility.

The NSA has brought in over 30 "independent experts" and devoted more than 160 tests and 50,000 man-hours to solving the issue. Construction of the Utah facility is being overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers, which has pledged to ensure the data center is "completely reliable" before the NSA puts it to use for critical operations. A spokesperson recently told the WSJ that, "the cause of the electrical issues was identified by the team, and is currently being corrected by the contractor." The NSA is simultaneously working on smaller data centers; one at its Maryland headquarters, and another located in San Antonio.