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Does the United States Need Nuclear Energy?

The coverage in the "News Currents," May 22, of the House of Representatives' approval of legislation to make the licensing process for nuclear power plants more stable misses the real importance of the measure: The United States needs such an energy source to help us reduce our massive burning of fossil fuels.

Nuclear-generated electricity accounts for about 22 percent of our consumption, second only to coal. Unlike coal, it produces no acid rain, smog, or greenhouse gases. The public seems to be getting this message, with recent polls indicating that about 80 percent believe nuclear power "should" be part of our energy future. This is a far cry from the impression that antinuclear groups convey of a public opposed to all things nuclear. Diane W. Harmon, Alexandria, Va. Hands off Social Security

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Regarding the editorial "No Way to Balance," May 11: To suggest that Social Security be included in budget cutting is incomprehensible. Social Security does not come from general taxes, it is money paid by the employee and matched by the employer. It goes, or is supposed to go, into a trust fund for the benefit of retired people and only that.

To encourage our government to cut back on a fund which for years has been diverted into all kinds of programs for which it was never intended is not only irre- sponsible, it is criminal. Ruth Clark, Fort Bragg, Calif. Oil in Alaska

In the article "Alaska's Murkowski, Young, Start Reelection Fireworks," May 19, the author says that business leaders were "disappointed" with me for the failure to win Senate approval of legislation to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas developments. That is misleading, indeed.

Alaskans may be disappointed that liberal Democrats successfully filibustered against an energy bill authorizing ANWR development, and that when the Republican Caucus agreed unanimously to consent to consider ANWR, six Democrats objected to permitting a fair vote on whether to permit development in a tiny sliver of the refuge.

But most Alaskans know I was able to get drilling in ANWR closer to passage than it's ever been, for the first time getting ANWR out of the Senate Energy Committee by a 17 to 3 vote, and then winning repeal of a "blackmail clause" that might have kept Alaska from arguing for its fair share of revenues once ANWR development wins approval.

I expect the Senate, next spring after election-year partisanship subsides, to again consider opening ANWR to development. Given our dangerous decline in domestic oil production and our rapid loss of energy-industry jobs overseas, even with new conservation efforts, our need for ANWR's oil should be so clear by then that ANWR's passage in the Senate, I believe, is likely. Sen. Frank H. Murkowski, Washington (R) of Alaska Aiming for gun safety

Regarding the article "L.A. Gun Sales Take Off After South-Central Riots," May 22: Most men who purchase guns assume that they were born knowing how to shoot. Few seek instruction or give any thought to gun safety. Waiting periods for gun purchases are good, but age-limits and mandatory instruction and licensing of gun owners would be better. Jeff Johnson, San Francisco

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