Nuclear energy: an environmental ally

Regarding the article ''Americans Go 'Lite Green,''' April 18: There is much to celebrate in terms of improved air and water quality, establishment of recycling programs, and, above all, a real consciousness of the environmental effect of human activity. Missing from most lists of successes is a technology that has widely improved the environment -- nuclear energy.

The generation of electricity from nuclear power plants produces no air pollution. From 1973 to 1993 United States nuclear plants averted the cumulative emissions of 1.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, a contributor to global warming.

The release of other major pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, is also curtailed by the use of nuclear energy. In a year's time nuclear energy offsets the emission of 4.7 million tons of sulfur dioxide, which is almost half of the entire reduction target called for in the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990. For nitrogen oxides the savings exceed the 2-million-ton annual reduction required.

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It is important to recognize what is really contributing to a better environment and to focus on those issues that can truly make a difference.

Frank R. Bruce, Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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