Nation & World News

NSA Says It Has ‘Mitigated’ Meltdowns At Utah Data Farm

By Howard Berkes on October 9th, 2013

This was supposed to be the month the National Security Agency cranked up its biggest data farm yet, in a Salt Lake City suburb.

The $1.2 billion complex covers 1.5 million square feet, and includes 100,000 square feet devoted solely to computers and servers.

But some of that equipment has fried in 10 “meltdowns” and “power surges” in the past 13 months, according to sources and documents quoted in The Wall Street Journal. The NSA acknowledges technical problems.

“The failures that occurred during testing have been mitigated,” says NSA spokeswoman Vanee’ Vines.

The Journal says project documents show that “chronic electrical surges … have destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of machinery and delayed the center’s opening for a year.”

Both the NSA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is managing construction of the data farm, say the electrical problems are resolved or close to a resolution.

“The cause of the electrical issues was identified by the team and is currently being corrected by the contractor,” says Norbert Suter, the Army Corps’ chief of construction operations for the NSA project.

“The Corps is now in the process of completing its final inspection of the project and making preparations to release it to the customer,” Suter adds.

The Utah Data Center requires 65 megawatts of electricity and its own power substation. That much power used by so much computer gear generates an enormous amount of heat. The NSA is using multiple chilling plants and 1.5 million gallons of water a day for cooling.

“Backup generators have failed numerous tests, according to project documents, and officials disagree about whether the cause is understood,” the Journal reported. “There are also disagreements among government officials and contractors over the adequacy of the electrical control systems, a project official said, and the cooling systems also remain untested.”

The Journal also quotes a report last week from Corps investigators, which said, “We did not find any indication that the proposed equipment modification measures will be effective in preventing future incidents.”

The Utah facility is part of an NSA “data cloud” that will collect, process and store so much electronic data that experts have had difficulty estimating its full capacity. The NSA won’t disclose details.

Analysts from the NSA and other federal intelligence agencies will access the data cloud from remote locations around the globe.

The disclosures of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about the NSA’s collection of Americans’ email, cellphone and other private data have triggered concerns about the purpose and function of the Utah complex.

NSA officials say that the increased intelligence gathering capacity is devoted to preventing and investigating foreign terrorist threats.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

This entry was posted in News from NPR. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.

 

More Stories in News from NPR

Buffalo Blizzard Brings Odd NFL Game: Free, And Far From Home

Monday night’s game between the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets is being played in Michigan, and tickets are being given away at no charge. Some Bills players began their trips on snowmobiles.


The 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, happened without an intelligence failure, a House panel concludes. A photo from 2013 shows wreckage outside the main gate of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

House Panel Finds ‘No Intelligence Failure’ Before Benghazi Attack

The final report by the House Intelligence Committee concludes the CIA “ensured sufficient security for CIA facilities in Benghazi and … bravely assisted the State Department” on Sept. 11, 2012.


In Britain, a new bus running between Bath and the Bristol airport uses biomethane for power. The gas is derived from human sewage and food waste.

Poo Power: New British Bus Runs On Human Waste

Touting the use of renewable energy, the Bath Bus Company says the Bio-Bus runs cleaner than a bus powered by a traditional diesel engine.


People walk along the beach in Tijuana, Mexico, near San Diego, where metal bars marking the border with the U.S. meet the sea.

A Closer Look At Obama’s Immigration Plan: What’s In It, Who’s Affected

The actions announced Thursday are complicated and will lead to many changes in immigration policy. Here we try to explain it plainly.


Daniel Handler — aka Lemony Snicket — apologized Thursday for his "ill-conceived attempts at humor" during the National Book Awards ceremony Wednesday.

Book News: Daniel Handler Apologizes For Jokes At National Book Awards

Handler, better known as Lemony Snicket, hosted Wednesday’s ceremony — and made a few racially charged jokes while doing so. He apologized after a backlash Thursday. Also: A Beach Boy plans a memoir.


Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Day Sponsorship Payments
Underwriting Payments