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Civil defense plan adds to nuclear war debate

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President Reagan wants to increase this year's civil defense budget from $117 million to $252 million to let the Soviet Union know we are prepared for all emergencies.

Another school scoffs at the idea that there is a defense against nuclear attack. It argues that there is no such thing as a ''limited'' nuclear war; there would be no survivors.

''One must conclude that a full-scale nuclear holocaust must lead to the extinction of mankind,'' says Jonathan Schell in a three-part series in The New Yorker magazine.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has issued some 30 million neatly printed, blue-covered, 98-page handbooks ''In Time of Emergency,'' giving advice for nuclear or other disasters. It offers 10 columns for newspapers that ''could be quickly disseminated at a crisis-building period as emergency guidance.'' These tells how to build fallout shelters, how to interpret warning sirens, and what to take to shelters.

As for pets, ''Leave them home, preferably in the basement, with a two-week supply of water and food,'' the handbook counsels. The tone of the advice is calm and matter of fact: ''Despite continuing efforts to achieve and maintain peace, nuclear attack upon the United States remains a distinct possibility. . . . Undoubtedly millions of Americans would die if a nuclear attack should occur, '' it says. ''However studies show that tens of millions would survive the limited effects of blast and heat.''

Mr. Reagan has decided to almost double spending for civil defense and plans include evacuation of up to 380 ''high risk areas'' in an exercise called ''crisis relocation.'' Plattsburgh, N.Y., has been picked as an experimental area for evacuation.

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