The NSA's huge Utah data center is supposed to help U.S. intelligence collect billions of bytes of data when it opens this fall. But the agency hit a snag or two in trying to take the complex live: a mysterious, repeated electrical failure keeps melting the facility's equipment. The center, located in Utah in part because of a need to access the massive amounts of cheap electricity available there, has suffered 10 meltdowns over 13 months, starting in August 2012. Each incident created about $100,000 dollars in damage.
And according to the Wall Street Journal report on the facility, those problems could have a lot to do with the contractors (a running theme) tasked with building it. The Journal, using documents and interviews, outlines the delays and problems encountered by the agency in its completion of the mostly classified complex. Speaking to an official, the paper notes that the electrical problems plaguing the facility are like "a flash of lightning inside a 2-foot box." And those flashes, they continue, "create fiery explosions, melt metal and cause circuits to fail." So, why is it happening? It could be because of some cut corners in the design and construction of its electrical system:
Backup generators have failed numerous tests, according to project documents, and officials disagree about whether the cause is understood. 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 Army Corps of Engineers is overseeing the construction of the facility, but the electrical work was contracted out to architectural firm KlingStubbin, which is itself a subcontractor of Balfour Beatty Construction, DPR Construction and Big-D Construction Corp.