Like a carnival ride that ends too soon, Deputy Attorney General Harold Christensen's ride aboard the U.S. Justice Department will be brief. But it will be memorable.

"I won't be ready to get off," said Christensen. "I love it."The U.S. Senate, by voice vote and without debate, Tuesday approved the nominations of three top Justice Department officials, including Christensen, who have been serving on an acting basis.

"I was excited and exhilarated," Christensen said. "I wanted it to happen for a long time."

But the confirmation has been delayed for months for various political reasons, none of which had to do with the Justice Department or Christensen's qualifications for the post.

"Hal Christensen is a great deputy attorney general," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, "and today's bipartisan confirmation in the U.S. Senate is a show of support from Democrats and Republicans alike that Hal is the best person tofill the position.

"He has the integrity, the experience, the management skills, the judgment and every other quality you would want in the second most important job at the Justice Department. I'm proud that a Utahn would be picked by the president for this important position."

In addition to confirming Christensen to the Justice Department's No. 2 post, the Senate confirmed the nominations of Francis Keating II, as associate attorney general; and Edward S.G. Dennis Jr., as assistant attorney general in charge of the department's criminal division.

Christensen, a Salt Lake ttorney, replaced former Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns who resigned in protest over the handling of the Justice Department by then-Attorney General Ed Meese. Christensen will serve until a new administration takes over on Jan. 20.

Christensen, who was senior partner in the Salt Lake firm of Snow, Christensen and Martineau, began serving as acting deputy attorney general on June 1 following his nomination by President Reagan.

The nomination came after several unsuccessful attempts to fill the vacancy. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, told Meese he should consider Christensen for the post, even though Meese and Christensen were not acquainted.

"It was a case of the senator knowing someone who he felt had the qualifications needed for the job and pointing him out," said Dee Benson, a former administrative assistant to Hatch who now works for Christensen.

Christensen's duties at the Justice Department include the administration of department employees, direct supervision of the department's civil divisions, including the tax and anti-trust divisions, and the management of the department budget.

He also reviews all political asylum decisions and deportation orders. "Practically everything the attorney general does comes across my desk for consideration," he said.

Christensen says he has developed a real love for the Justice Department and would like to stay on if the opportunity presents itself. But he's not planning on it.

"I would certainly consider staying on. I've enjoyed it very much," Christensen said. "Gov. Richard Thornburgh (who replaced Meese when Meese resigned) is going to be a great attorney general and it would be quite an opportunity work with him."

And the enthusiasm and new ideas brought in by a new administration would be exciting to work with, he said. "But realistically I have no plans beyond January."