Partly as a physicist, but mainly as a citizen with serious concern for a safe environment, I take issue with the letter {"Nuclear Power and the People," Nov. 24} from two "co-organizers" of a Williamsburg, Va., group professing a like concern. Regrettably, that letter not only misrepresented the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's new rule on nuclear power plant emergency planning but went on to distort both the technical aspects of nuclear power and its role in our current and future energy picture.

Unquestionably, "citizens and officials . . . have both the right and the responsibility to participate in decisions" on plant licensing (emphasis added). The new rule does not diminish, much less "disregard," that right or responsibility; the commission explicitly and repeatedly encourages participation. What is to be disregarded under the rule are the assertions of local politicians that they will not act to protect their populaces in the unlikely event of a serious accident. Of course, Govs. Michael Dukakis and Mario Cuomo are being petulant. It was their posturing rejections of "the responsibility to participate" in emergency planning that necessitated the rule. The rule only recognizes that the law and common sense do not countenance refusals to perform sworn duties.

It's important to realize the limitations on electric power distribution -- some excess generating capacity in California, for example, has little relevance to energy demand in Virginia. Also, the notion of ample excess generating capacity in this part of the country without nuclear power is a little strange in view of the voltage reductions experienced as recently as last summer, especially when more than 40 percent of the electric power generated in Virginia and the Carolinas comes from nuclear plants.

The writers' words "alternatives to nuclear energy" (coal, hydro, solar, etc.) imply an either/or scenario. In fact, an adequate electric energy supply will require all of these sources -- in their appropriate roles. Now, at least, it does not seem wise to pin our principal hopes on reliable solar power for Minnesota in the winter or hydroelectric power for Texas.

Lumping together the Three-Mile Island and Chernobyl events to illustrate the "fallibility of technology" ignores the extent to which U.S. light-water reactor design, with its redundant safety equipment and strong containment, compensates for human error to protect the environment -- as contrasted with the unforgiving Soviet design. As has been pointed out repeatedly, the radioactive release from Chernobyl was at least a million times greater than the trivial 18 or so curies from TMI. Even without the procedural and hardware improvements that will be made during the next 20 years, TMI has shown that significant radioactive release does not necessarily follow a meltdown-type event in our nuclear power system.

Certainly, nuclear power is not totally risk-free; nothing in life is. However, it fares very well in an objective and rational evaluation of our current and future energy options. JOHN T. HOLLOWAY Washington