The National Science Foundation says it is working to clean up its act in Antarctica, where an environmental group says the federal agency's research bases are polluting the frigid environment.

"We're making progress," says Jack Talmadge, head of NSF's polar coordination and information section. "Nobody here wants to rape Antarctica. We want to preserve it."Talmadge made the comments Tuesday after the Environmental Defense Fund released a report accusing the agency's bases in Antarctica of violating U.S. environmental laws and an international agreement governing use of the frozen continent.

"The environmental practices of the NSF . . . would not be permitted anywhere in the United States," said the EDF, which frequently brings lawsuits against polluters in this country.

The group said the science agency is dumping untreated sewage and other wastes in Antarctic waters, engaging in open burning of some wastes and operating diesel power generators without emissions controls.