Re ``Energy Department: nuclear wolf in sheep's clothing,'' Jan. 24: Bravo to Ralph Cavanagh for his assessment of the US Department of Energy. Too often we find that in just a few years, the nature of federal institutions can change, bearing no resemblance to what was originally intended in their formation.
Conservation of energy resources as a national movement has created many new kinds of employment and spectacular results and must remain a top priority. Photovoltaic production of electricity has been improved in efficiency. The production of electricity from sunlight via arrays of microscopic dipole antennas is a recent breakthrough utilizing existing microwave technology. The above-mentioned are more socially acceptable than nuclear technology is at present. If the US Department of Energy is to be dissolved, let's keep the money spent in that direction within the individual states for research and development.
Reducing the scale of operations of US energy institutions makes them more resilient, diversified, and responsive to society's needs; it also helps prevent federal institutions from becoming the handmaidens of industry. Richard A. Ford Farmer City, Ill.
Re ``France's nuclear program sputters,'' Jan. 2.
The French Ministry of Energy's statement that ``French industry must move into other, more profitable areas'' [than nuclear-powered energy] is encouraging. The faltering of one of the world's leading governmentally supported nuclear industries may be seen as a harbinger of decline in other nuclear industries as well.
Third-world countries interested in acquiring nuclear power should pay particular attention to French actions. At present, nuclear power industries have met a near-halt in plant ordering in their host countries. The fate of these companies, then, lies in their ability to export nuclear technology. Importing nations should consider these points before investing in nuclear power:
1. Since electricity production only consumes 10 percent of all oil, nuclear power production cannot significantly reduce oil imports.
2. Nuclear power, with its economy-draining capital costs and long lead time, is not the most cost-effective energy source.
3. In many cases electricity simply does not best meet energy needs.
There is no reason to doubt that France will indeed ``move into other, more profitable areas.'' Physicist Amory Lovins, in his book ``Soft Energy Paths,'' tells us where these more profitable areas lie: efficiency improvements, and renewable energy harnessing scaled to meet each country's particular requirements.
There is every reason to hope that France, with the reason and foresight it has shown in deciding to curtail its nuclear program, will become a world leader in economically viable and ecologically sound energy production. Wayne Lewis Seattle
Re ``Reagan's budget balancing act,'' Jan. 25: Reagan's budget balancing act is just that -- an act. He should have been able to make at least some progress toward a balanced budget during his first term. Instead he succeeded in nearly doubling the national debt. Henry Frank East Lempster, N.H.
Re M. Nazif Shahrani's article [``US and Afghanistan,'' Jan. 17], I am tired of hearing that the US is bleeding the Afghans. If we give selective aid, we are condemned for prolonging the struggle. If we give a lot of aid we are condemned for exciting Afghans to fight hopeless battles. Such reasoning leads to an even worse position; give no aid and turn our backs on the historic struggle to create a free Afghanistan. People who seek survival at any cost cannot understand the spirit of the Afghan people. For the freedom fighters life is nothing without freedom. They will fight regardless of the power of the Soviets or the support of the free world. To act in a way that endangers the little support the Afghans receive is to perform the greatest disservice to these brave people, because to eliminate support is tantamount to causing them to suffer even more. Don Weidenweber American Aid For Afghanistan Portland, Ore.
I was dismayed to see the Jan. 10 headline ``Geneva seen as solid gain, especially for US.'' The assessment of the Jan. 7 peace talks in Geneva was inappropriate. Any progress in the complex talks can only be made if no party gains at the other's expense. The message of the headline therefore undermines a sense of mutuality which was a critical factor in the negotiations. G. G. van Beers Guelph, Ontario Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none individually acknowledged. All are subject to condensation. Please address letters to ``readers write.''