"I admit I have had some benefit from this notoriety. I had a half of pint of beer poured for me in my local pub in England." - Cold nuclear fusion researcher Martin Fleischmann on his new-found fame.Even if the Utah Jazz go on to claim an NBA championship this season, they'll be hard-pressed to match the enthusiasm displayed by other Utah team - chemist B. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann - after returning from meetings with congressional leaders in Washington, D.C.

Pons and Fleischmann scored big during hearings to discuss their cold nuclear fusion research.

Meanwhile another laboratory - Portland State University - joined a handful of labs that have publicly announced duplicating the Utah results.

"It was the most positive response from a bunch of responsible citizens I have ever seen," Pons said of their visit to Capitol Hill, which included an appearance before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee on Wednesday.

"Extremely positive," added Fleischmann, who with Pons and U. President Chase N. Peterson spoke with the Deseret News at the Salt Lake International Airport. "I was impressed by the whole working of the governmental system. Very open, accessible, critical - very objective."

During their Wednesday appearance before the committee, Pons, a U. chemistry professor, and Fleischmann, of the University of Southampton in England, explained their cold nuclear fusion research that has energized the nation the past month - and could revolutionize world energy sources.

Peterson asked the committee for $25 million immediately in federal seed money for a $100 million effort in cold nuclear fusion research.

"As these studies are confirmed, they will need to be moved rapidly to developmental and commercial phases or we will lose their harvest," Peterson told committee members.

Peterson said pledges of state and private money, plus industry contributions, could total $75 million. He proposed a fusion research center in Salt Lake City, a project Utah members of Congress promised to back with what Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, called innovative legislation to create "a whole new concept for a national partnership for action" on fusion.

But the chances of getting strong federal funding were dealt a setback on the House floor during the committee's session. The House rejected a compromise supplemental spending bill containing money for a score of research programs, and the leadership abruptly pulled the entire bill off the calendar.

While the tone of the morning session was optimistic, during the afternoon committee members got a dose of skepticism by detractors, including scientists from Brigham Young University. They proposed a go-slow policy, with no substantial federal contribution to cold nuclear fusion work until the Pons-Fleischmann experiment is confirmed by more researchers.

With the regular fiscal 1990 science appropriations bill not likely to pass until later in the year, committee members said additional scientific confirmation of the Pons-Fleischmann cold nuclear fusion work could come before a vote on funding becomes necessary. Several members said they wanted to support cold nuclear fusion work, but did not want to rush in with millions until more is known about the process.

Despite the House rejection of its supplemental appropriations bill, Rep. Robert Walker, R-Pa., ranking Republican on the committee, said he has proposed diverting $5 million from other programs to support cold nuclear fusion work. Walker said he plans to ask the committee to provide as much as $40 million for cold nuclear fusion in fiscal 1990, if the House will go along.

BYU physicist Steven E. Jones, who urged caution in funding the U.'sresearch, brought a tiny green plant to the hearing, which he compared to the cold nuclear fusion process. He said some people see it as a tree that will provide all our fuel.

"But I really feel that the little plant that has sprouted now is a long way from becoming a tree."

Daniel L. Decker, chairman of the BYU department of physics and astronomy, said, "There is enough evidence that we should put some money into confirmation. But as my grandfather used to say, `Don't say gee and haw to the oxen until you hook them to the covered wagon.' "

The bright spot Wednesday afternoon for Fleischmann and Pons was testimony by Robert Huggins, of Stanford University, who said a Stanford research team had duplicated the Pons-Fleischmann fusion experiment. He said they found heat-generating effects of magnitudes "comparable to those reported . . . by Fleischmann and Pons (that) lend strong support to the validity of their results." *****


Fusion updates

-Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling, noted for his pioneering work on the nature of the chemical bond, has submitted a paper to the scientific journal Nature detailing how heat released in "cold fusion" experiments might have been produced by conventional atomic bonding common to all metals.

-U.S. Department of Energy has released money to Battelle's Pacific Northwest Lab at Richland, Wash., to test the contention that room-temperature nuclear fusion has been achieved.

-Los Alamos National Lab, under auspices of the DOE, will sponsor a scientific workshop on cold nuclear fusion for 2,000 scientists May 23-25 in Santa Fe, N.M.



Fusion scorecard

Confirmed U. experiment:

-Lajos Kossuth University, Debrecen, Hungary

-Texas A&M University

-Moscow University

-University of Washington

-Italian National Agency for Alternative Energy

-Stanford University

-Czechoslovakia team of physicists

-University of Florida, Gainesville

-Indira Gandhi Center for Atomic Research

-South Korean scientists

-Portland State University


Los Alamos National Laboratory