A timely report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, based on data from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), contains troubling news about the state of Americas vast network of nuclear power plants. The report, which examined serious incidents at 14 U.S. nuclear power plants nationwide from New York to California in 2010, finds fault with both plant operators and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission which is supposed to oversee them. Many of these significant events occurred because reactor owners and even the NRC tolerated known safety problems, states the report, entitled: The NRC and Nuclear Power Plant Safety in 2010: A Brighter Spotlight Needed. While none of the 14 safety incidents tagged in the Unions report as near misses produced harm to nuclear plant employees or the public, the report terms the frequency of these incidents, which averaged more than one per month, high for a mature industry. Authored by David Lochbaum, director of the Unions Nuclear Safety Program, this report comes as Japan is confronting a nuclear catastrophe caused by severe damage to a nuke plant complex 170 miles north of Tokyo, which followed an earthquake and tsunami which hit that area. That Japanese plant has six reactors of a typethe GE Mark 1which is identical to 24 of the 104 reactors operating in the US. Although Japan boasts of having one of the worlds most sophisticated nuclear power industries the ongoing disaster reveals that its reputation rests in part on an image cultivated by plant operators and government regulators. Belying that image is the string of technical failures in containing grave problems at the crippled facilities and government regulators withholding critical information from the Japanese public. Over a decade ago there were three alarming incidents related to nuke plants in Japan including incidents in 1997 and 1999 where 100 workers were exposed to radiation while constructing nuclear fuel rods for reactors. In the midst of the ongoing nuclear disaster in Japan, WikiLeaks has released diplomatic cables showing that international nuclear regulators had warned the Japanese two years ago that their plants were incapable of withstanding powerful earthquakes. The leaked documents show governmental officials and industry authorities took little action in response to the warnings. Ralph Nader recently authored a commentary calling for reexamination of Americas nuclear power plants noting that many are aging, near earthquake faults and some on the West Coast exposed to potential tsunami. The Unions report criticized the NRCs failure to address a longstanding problem at the Indian Point facility located just 25 miles north of New York City, Americas largest municipality. That facility is built close to the northern terminus of a major East Coast earthquake fault line however there is a leak in a refueling cavity construction to prevent leaks in the event of an earthquake. That leak has existed for over a dozen years and the report faults the NRC for failing to crack down on this serious problem. According to the Unions report the device at Indian Point installed to prevent leakage after an earthquake is leaking before an earthquake even occurs. Particularly disturbing in the Unions report are examinations of incidents at two separate facilities located 55 miles south and 83 miles northeast of Washington, DC Americas capital. One of the 14 examined 'near misses occurred at the Calvert Cliffs facility in Lusby, Maryland, located south of DC. That February 2010 incident arose from a combination of the facility operators failure to fix a leaking roof plus a failure to replace and test safety equipment. That incident, initiated by rain falling through a roof, caused both reactors at Calvert Cliffs to shutdown. The plant operator, Constellation Energy, was aware of the roof leaks since 2002, the report stated. But instead of fixing it, workers were simply expected to mop up any rain water during storms, and to cover critical electrical components with plasticplastic that failed to prevent water penetration into key equipment. The leaking roof in one reactor building produced an electrical short that shut one of the four pumps circulating water needed to cool the reactor. This caused an automatic shutdown of that reactor. That auto shutdown produced a current surge in a second reactor which shut down all of that reactors cooling water pumps, too, prompting a shutdown of the second reactor. That shutdown in turn triggered a backup generator for the pumps, but that emergency generator worked only for a few minutes, because plant operators, in a cost-cutting move, had failed to replace a time-delay relay in the generator. Constellation Energy, the report states, ended a program to routinely replace safety components before launching a new program to monitor degradation of those components. As a result, an electrical device that had been in use for longer than its service lifetime failed, disabling critical safety components. The NRC cited Calvert Cliffs for failing to fix the leaking roof and for not replacing vital safety equipment. A 2010 incident at the Peach Bottom nuclear plant in Pennsylvania incredibly produced no enforcement action by the NRC, the report states. That incident involved workers at the plant finding that 21 of the 185 control rods needed to shutdown the reactor in the event of an emergency were slow to engage. The federal operating license for Peach Bottom requires a shutdown of the reactor within 12 hours if 13 of the control rods are slow to engage. Yet, plant operators kept the reactor running as the problem rods were repaired. Counterpunch