Libya is understood to have contracted with the Soviet Union for construction of a 440,000-kilowatt nuclear power plant.

No announcement has been made by either country about the deal but sources in the nuclear power industy say a contract has already been signed that calls for the Soviet Union to build an atomic power plant, and for Finaland to design and construct an emergency cooling system for the plant. Sources said the plant would be built along Libya's Meditterranean coast, where sea water could be pumped to the plant to cool it.

The plant wil be Libya's second unclear reactor and first commercial nuclear power plant. Two years ago, the Liyans signed a contract with the Soviets for construction of a 10,000-kilowatt research reactor that is too small to be used to generate electricity for homes and factories.

The plant the Soviets will build for Libya is of the so-called Lovissa type that the Soviets have already supplied to Finland and East Bloc countries like Czechoslovakia. Poland and East Germany. Estimated cost of the plant is $330 million, which Libya presumably will pay with its oil earnings.

While no announcement has been made of the deal, the Soviets are expected shortly to notify the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna about it and to put the plant under IAEA safeguards. The Soviets have place all the unclear power plants they have built outside their borders under IAEA safeguards to guarantee that none of the nuclear fuel is diverted to make unclear weapons.

The way the Soviets have worked nuclear deals with other countries suggests that Libya will never take ownership of the nuclear fuel. The Soviets return all spent fuel to their own country where they reprocess it and keep the plutonium they exact from the spent fuel.

The Soviets do not place any concrete containment around their nuclear reactors or supply them with emergency cooling systems, which is why Finland will share the Libyan contract with the Soviet Union. Finland builds what is called on ice condenser, which is used as an emergency cooling system in case the nuclear power reactor expreiences an accidental excursion or meltdown.

The condenser literally bathes the reactor in ice to cool it down in case of an accident. This prevents the reactor form getting so hot that it triggers an explosion in the power plant's steam generator.

Much has been said about the nuclear intention so Libya, whose leader, Muammar Qaddafi, once said he wanted to buy nuclear weapons from anybody who would sell them to him. Qaddafi has said he would wage war against Israel "until the Zionist state is destroyed."

It is Soviet policy to sel nuclear power plants to anybody who can afford them as long as they sign and ratify the Non-Proliferation Treaty prohibiting the spread of nuclear weapons. Libya has signed and ratified that treaty.