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Nuclear: the environment's friend

It is impossible for the United States to meet its commitments to reducing global-warming gases without the large-scale use of nuclear energy (``US Slips in Cutting Back on `Greenhouse Gas,' '' April 20.)

Conservatively, the use of nuclear power has reduced potential annual carbon-dioxide emissions in the US by 10 percent. Over the past 20 years, the use of nuclear fuel has prevented 1.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from being released.

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Unless we begin strategic planning that includes nuclear power, these savings will begin to erode. Early in the next century, the first group of the current generation of nuclear plants will begin to reach the end of their operational lives. This, coupled with the apparent inexorable rise in electrical demand despite active conservation programs, means that more power will have to come from burning fossil fuels.

We have a technology that can be an important player in controlling greenhouse gas emissions. Let us take care not to allow ideology to interfere with the practical means for dealing with this potentially devastating environmental problem. Theodore M. Besmann, Oak Ridge, Tenn.

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