One of the tasks of the yet-to-be-named state Fusion Advisory Council - confirmation of the University of Utah's fusion experiment - just got easier.
With the announcement Monday by Texas A&M University that chemists there have repeated the experiment developed by U. chemist B. Stanley Pons and British researcher Martin Fleischmann, the way appears clear to begin release of $5 million the Utah Legislature approved Friday for commercialization research of the heat-producing process.There's just one hang-up. The law approved by legislators says only the Fusion Advisory Council can allocate the money. And there is no Fusion Advisory Council yet.
Gov. Norm Bangerter will appoint the nine-member council. Bangerter left over the weekend for an 11-day economic development trip to Asia. Bangerter was to appoint the council upon his return.
But with Texas A&M's announcement Monday, and more chemists expected to confirm the experiment soon, Bangerter doesn't want to wait, his chief of staff Bud Scruggs said Monday.
Scruggs said that the governor's staff will send a recommendation to him within days. "We expect the governor to appoint the council, and the council will meet, well before he returns," Scruggs said.
U. President Chase Peterson says weeks, maybe even days, may be vital in the race to develop and patent devices that convert the experiment into usable, cheap energy.
"Whatever accelerated additional funds we receive, we will certainly take advantage of them," said Pons. "Meanwhile, other labs must now start doing the experiment correctly."
The bill, passed and signed Friday, left vague what scientific confirmation is needed. The council will decide that for itself. Not until such confirmation is determined can any of the $5 million be spent.