Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Wednesday, August 17, 2022

NSA Uses Wastewater To Cool Massive Datacenter 

A massive National Security Agency datacenter under construction at its Fort Meade, Maryland headquarters is going a bit greener than it otherwise would by securing a huge volume of wastewater reclaimed from a nearby sewage treatment plant to cool it.

The NSA announced that it was breaking ground on the High Performance Computing Center-2 upgrade to an existing datacenter at Fort Meade last May. The facility has over 600,000 square feet of total space, with 70,000 square feet allocated for IT gear. A rack takes up around ten square feet of space, so that's about 7,000 racks of gear. The datacenter upgrade is being done in two phases, and costs around $815 million, according to unclassified documents outlining the project. The expanded HPCC-2 datacenter is expected to come online in 2016 and the Army Corps of Engineers is building it right now.

The Baltimore Sun has a detailed report on the agreement between the NSA and Howard County, Maryland, which is providing water from its sewage treatment plants to be used to cool the 60-megawatt datacenter. The NSA is paying $40 million for a pumping station to move the wastewater to the datacenter, and will pay another $2 million per year for the 5 million gallons per day it will pump. If the NSA had not secured the wastewater for cooling, it would have had to drill wells to pull fresh water from the aquifer underneath Fort Meade or secured water from some other source. Howard County was cleaning the water and then letting it loose into the Little Patuxent River. The Fort Meade NSA HQ is located a few miles northeast of the river.

The HPCC-2 datacenter is part of the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI), which was created in January 2008 by the Bush Administration to deal with cybersecurity threats. The effort was reviewed by the Obama Administration and is part of the controversial telephone and Internet surveillance program that came to light in recent months thanks to former Central Intelligence Agency employees and NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

One Response to NSA Uses Wastewater To Cool Massive Datacenter

  1. RagingWire has been working with Loudoun Water to include reclaimed water as part of our cooling systems in our Ashburn Virginia data center.

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