The federal government should fund another Manhattan Project - bringing together the best brains in the country to develop cold nuclear fusion, a Kansas state senator said Tuesday.
"I believe this is a unique opportunity for us to do something for mankind without a lot of additional pollution that will harm the environment," said Ross Doyen, a Republican.Doyen, in Salt Lake City for Council of State Governments' meetings, was among state officials receiving a fusion update at the University of Utah, where the phenomenon was born.
The Manhattan Project is the unofficial designation for the War Department's secret program, organized in 1942, to explore the isolation of radioactive isotopes and the production of an atomic bomb.
Despite its skeptics, cold nuclear fusion has created excitement worldwide because "at the very minimum, it's an exciting new science; at maximum, it could be a practical source of unlimited, clean energy," U. vice president for research James Brophy told the gathering.
Brophy said U. scientists can currently run the fusion experiment, discovered March 23 by B. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, for several months. It produces heat - temperatures high enough to boil water.
But if scientists can solve temperature and material problems, fusion, Brophy said, could have such "gee-whiz" applications as running power plants, cars, even rockets without damaging the environment.
"The top 10 inches of Lake Superior would be able to supply the U.S. energy demands for 5,000 years," he said. "If you are in the electric power business now and this proves out, what you will have to do is get in the Pons/Fleischmann business."
But Brophy cautioned that no one can predict when fusion will be moved out of the test tube into practical application.
"This is new science. Mother Nature doesn't like to be pushed," he said. "When you push on Mother Nature, she pushes back."
Brophy emphasized that future fusion development depends on financial support - primarily from the federal government.