Soviet scientists have completed an experiment creating nuclear fusion at room temperature, duplicating work recently conducted in Britain and the United States, the Soviet news agency Tass said Wednesday.

Tass said Runar Kuzmin of Moscow University's physics faculty performed some 20 experiments that he said proved the phenomenon, which has been hailed as a breakthrough in energy production."When I found out in late March that such experiments had already been conducted at Utah University, I decided to repeat them here," Kuzmin said. "The experiments were surprisingly simple."

Tass said Kuzmin was convinced the experiments were valid despite opinions expressed by some scientists in the West that the technique is flawed. Kuzmin said the economic application of the experiments was difficult to assess.

"In theory, nuclear fusion at room temperature can be used as a source of energy, but a whole series of experiments on the physics and chemical mechanisms would have to be conducted," he told Tass.

Last month Martin Fleischmann of Britain's Southampton University and B. Stanley Pons of the University of Utah reported achieving fusion in a laboratory for the first time.

Kuzmin said his experiment was conducted by adding salt and heavy water - in which deuterium molecules are substituted for hydrogen - to about 2.6 pints of liquid.

The researchers observed the gradual heating of the liquid to boiling and the release of neutrons.

Most fusion research has been based on the assumption that the reaction could occur only at temperatures as high as 180 million degrees (Fahrenheit) (100 million degrees Centigrade).