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Cold fusion gets a brusin' from DOE.

Cold fusion gets a bruisin' from DOE

Generating energy by means of low-temperature nuclear fusion appears a remote possibility, concludes a Department of Energy advisory group in a preliminary report released July 12. "The panel recommends against any significant expenditures to establish cold fusion research centers or to support new efforts to find cold fusion," the report states. "Indeed, evidence for the discovery of a new nuclear process termed cold fusion is not persuasive."

This strikes yet another blow against the sensational March 23 claim by electrochemists B. Stanley Pons of the University of Utah in Salk Lake City and Martin Fleischmann of the University of Southampton in England that they had found a means of generating energy by steadily fusing atoms at room temperature with a large accompanying release of heat. Argues the 22-member cold fusion panel: "So far, we have seen no experimental results that are sufficiently free of ambiguities and calibration problems to make us confident that the steady production of excess heat has been observed."

The final version of the report goes to Energy Secretary James D. Watkins in November. "some minor things could change -- even major ones -- between now and November," notes nuclear chemist John R. Huizenga from the University of Rochester (N.Y.), co-chairman of the panel. However, he adds, "I don't expect that to happen."

The panel says also that "there remain unresolved issues and scientifically interesting questions" and recommends their investigation within existing federal research programs. These issues include apparently unflawed reports of heat bursts and potential fusion products such as neutron bursts and tritium, Huizenga says. Even if these observations are confirmed, the panel doubts they would apply to energy production. Meanwhile, the General Electric Co. in Schenectady, N.Y., has committed four scientists to the task of "unraveling what processes might be taking place."
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Title Annotation:Chemistry; Department of Energy
Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 29, 1989
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