EUVL mask blanks consist of a distributed Bragg reflector made of 6.7 nm-pitch bi-layers of Mo and Si deposited upon a precision Si or glass substrate. The layer deposition process has been optimized for low defects, by application of a vendor-supplied but highly modified ion-beam sputter deposition system. This system is fully automated using SMIF technology to obtain the lowest possible environmental- and handling-added defect levels. Originally designed to coat 150 mm substrates, it was upgraded in July 1999 to 200 mm and has coated runs of over 50 substrates at a time with median added defects > 100 nm below 0.05/cm2. These improvements have resulted from a number of ion-beam sputter deposition system modifications, upgrades, and operational changes, which will be discussed. Success in defect reduction is highly dependent upon defect detection, characterization, and cross- platform positional registration. We have made significant progress in adapting and extending commercial tools to this purpose, and have identified the surface scanner detection limits for different defect classes, and the signatures of false counts and non-printable scattering anomalies on the mask blank. We will present key results and how they have helped reduce added defects. The physics of defect reduction and mitigation is being investigated by a program on multilayer growth over deliberately placed perturbations (defects) of varying size. This program includes modeling of multilayer growth and modeling of defect printability. We developed a technique for depositing uniformly sized gold spheres on EUVL substrates, and have studied the suppression of the perturbations during multilayer growth under varying conditions. This work is key to determining the lower limit of critical defect size for EUV Lithography. We present key aspects of this work. We will summarize progress in all aspects of EUVL mask blank development, and present detailed results on defect reduction and mask blank performance at EUV wavelengths.