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University of Utah officials say that Japanese scientists, who this week announced finding new ways to achieve room-temperature cold fusion, are "apparently" taking the credit for the work of University of Utah fusion pioneers B. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann.

And despite stringent patent laws, the Japanese could capitalize on the pair's discovery.In the November issue of the English-language Japanese Journal of Applied Physics, scientists at Japan's Nagoya University said nuclear fusion had occurred spontaneously between two palladium electrodes in a flask filled with deuterium (heavy water) gas.

The physicists said the major difference between their work and the Utah-born experiments is that the Japanese used deuterium gas instead of heavy water.

But U. officials insist work of this kind has already been carried out by Fleischmann and Pons at the university. In fact, they say it is one of the subjects of patent applications.

Pons and Fleischmann confirmed Friday that the work has been part of the examination of electrolysis cells under extreme conditions and "details have not been released for obvious reasons."

The obvious reasons? Patents, energy sources and nutrons.

The U., which owns the experiments and the patents, has to file patents both in the United States and in each foreign country to protect its technology worldwide. The foreign patents don't prevent other countries from doing cold-fusion research similar to those of Pons and Fleischmann but do prevent foreign companies from selling patented products in the United States.

According to energy experts, the most amazing aspect of the widely publicized Nagoya experiment is the high level of neutron emissions - up to 20,000 times the normal background level.

Topping that, another group of researchers at Osaka University this week reported detecting neutron levels 2.5 million times normal levels in a cold-fusion experiment using platinum electrodes in heavy water.

Fusion scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Texas A&M University, the U. and other U.S. labs have also reported levels of neutron emission many times the natural background level, Pons said.

The Japanese are among foreign researchers, including those in Russia, India and China, accelerating efforts to move fusion out of the test tube into practical use.

In a recent article in "Foreign Technology," a newsletter published by the U.S. Commerce Department's National Technical Information Service, Soviet researchers at Kharkov Physical Technical Institute also reported detecting telltale products of fusion - helium, tritium, neutrons and gamma rays.

The Russian article, written by an anonymous intelligence source and based on Soviet press reports, says Soviet physicists have been most successful using low-temperature ion implantation - experiments that do not involve heavy water or electrolysis.

Both the Russian and Japanese scientists say that if harnessed correctly, their fusion experiments could solve their country's energy problems.

Many U.S. fusion researchers have the same hope for their country. But their experiments, tangled in a web of controversy, have been weakened by lack of financial support - from both the federal Department of Energy and commercial companies.

"It's obvious where the credit will go as long as this country is unwilling to spend the money to invest in this research," Pons said.