Without themost careful reading, the article "Nuclear Power Debate Shifts" {front page, Aug. 24} was bound to leave readers with the impression that, faced with the threat of global climate change, we at the National Audubon Society have "rethought our position on nuclear power" and are now ready to embrace a technology whose inherent problems we have spent many years in exposing. Nothing could be further from the truth. We feel compelled to point out that many of the conclusions in the article, which are tacitly associated with Audubon, are actually drawn from quotes from non-Audubon sources. In my testimony to the House energy subcommittee, which I provided to The Post's reporter, I made it clear that "current nuclear technology cannot make a significant contribution to staving off climate disruption." I also made clear our conclusion that "the most practical program for solving the greenhouse problem in the next century involves ... {on the demand side} improved energy efficiency and materials recycling, {and on the supply side} emphasis on direct solar technologies, such as photovoltaics." Finally, I stated that despite the high promise of direct solar power, enough uncertainty still remains about our ability to rely totally on renewable energy as a future resource that some level of continued long-term research into future applications of other technologies is warranted. It is in this sense only -- as a sort of global-warming insurance policy in case the transition to renewable energy systems fails to materialize -- that I recommended that some small amount of funding be made available for continued basic research directed toward the development of advanced, inherently safe nuclear reactors. Even here, I was careful to point out that the "allocation of research funds among the various technologies should reflect the low probability that any kind of nuclear option will prove both commercially viable and sufficiently idiot-proof to overcome public concern about the safety of the nuclear fuel cycle." For this reason, Audubon joined other conservation groups in urging Sen. Timothy E. Wirth (D-Colo.) to remove the authorization for a full-scale advanced demonstration reactor that was contained in his first comprehensive global-warming bill. For the record, I should note that Sen. Wirth did remove the authorization in the current version of the bill. To make Audubon's position clear: the present nuclear industry has no future, even in a greenhouse world, because it is too expensive to represent a real investment option to back out carbon dioxide, and because it has failed to solve the most fundamental reactor safety and quality-assurance problems or to find a means for the safe disposal of nuclear waste. The nuclear industry has yet to show any real interest in moving to a technology capable of addressing these problems and has in fact been highly critical of efforts, like my own, to move the federal nuclear research effort away from tinkering with the current generation of light-water reactors and toward a potentially more productive future-oriented effort. The real question for The Post to ponder is not whether the environmental movement is willing to "rethink the role of nuclear power" but whether the nuclear industry is willing to face reality. JAN BEYEA Senior Staff Scientist, National Audubon Society New York