Members of the committee holding the purse strings for the state's contribution to fusion research say they're not yet ready to let go of their money, despite the urgings of Gov. Norm Bangerter.
The committee was scheduled to meet behind closed doors Thursday with officials from the University of Utah and with a Texas A&M University scientist who has duplicated parts of the solid-state fusion experiments pioneered by the U.Committee members say the meeting will be the first step in obtaining information they need to decide whether to release $5 million that state lawmakers have set aside.
The money is intended to help develop the experiments of B. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischman into commercial benefits. Cold fusion has the potential to supply the world with a clean, virtually limitless supply of energy.
"We need exact data that they (U. officials) haven't released yet," said State Science Adviser Randy Moon, who was to preside as chairman of the meeting Thursday.
Moon said the committee has yet to decide what criteria to use when deciding whether the fusion experiments are legitimate and when to release the money. Until now, the committee has not felt any urgency. Moon said committee members have repeatedly asked if the university needs the money.
"They've told us, repeatedly, no,"' he said.
Bangerter has urged the committee to release the money, saying enough other universities have duplicated the experiments to consider the procedure sound and worthy of investment.
Committee members said they are not likely to release any money Thursday, but they may after a second meeting July 11. At that meeting, committee members hope to be given a tour of the laboratory where the experiments are housed.
"We have not had access to the Pons and Fleischman experiments," said Karen Morse, chairwoman of the Utah State University college of science and a member of the state's fusion committee. "The committee has to consider the arguments. Those arguments have to be made by the University of Utah."
At the meeting Thursday, university officials plan to present information about how the experiments have been duplicated in other parts of the world. John Bockris, a Texas A&M scientist who says he has duplicated the results, will report his efforts.
University officials are not planning to ask for money Thursday. However, on July 11 they plan to present a detailed schedule of how the $5 million would be spent. The money would be used to help start a fusion research organization at the University of Utah.
Brigham Young University and Utah State University scientists will be invited to participate in the program.
Stanford University's Robert Huggins, who says he has successfully duplicated the U. experiments, is expected to present his findings at the meeting.
Media shut out
Members of the state's Fusion Advisory Committee closed their meeting to reporters Thursday, but media attorney Patrick Shea said he hopes that practice will end.
Shea, representing the Society of Professional Journalists, told committee members they should open their meetings if they are discussing how to spend tax money.
A law passed to create the committee allows it to close its meetings for virtually any purpose.
Meanwhile, members of the Board of Regents and the Commission for Higher Education closed a meeting with the governor Thursday morning. When asked for their reasons, they said they needed to discuss "sensitive educational strategies."