Solid-state fusion is real but has only a 50 percent chance of eventually having commercial value, says a national consultant to the University of Utah fusion program.

Still, Utahns should place their bets - and tax dollars - on fusion development, says James C. Fletcher.Fletcher, twice director of NASA, believes the $5 million allocated by the Legislature to turn the test tube experiments into moneymaking machines could mean billions of dollars to the national economy and an unlimited supply of clean energy.

Fletcher has lent his support to the controversial experiments by U. researchers B. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann.

He believes the state's Fusion/Energy Advisory Council should also.

The council, charged with releasing the $5 million allocated by the Legislature for fusion development, will meet Friday to again consider a budget request by the U. Fusion Research Committee.

The committee, which has signed a long-term lease on a building in Research Park, wants to set up fusion laboratories and begin hiring research associates to assist U. scientists, metallurgists and engineers in the Fusion Research Center.

But the nine-member state panel not only nixed the U.'s budget proposal July 11 but postponed a vote to endorse scientific confirmation of the Pons/Fleischmann experiments.

Before the council can release any money, it must vote there has been scientific confirmation, that citizens are protected and that there is a practical application. Fletcher, a former U. president, says it's now important that the council resolve the issue in order to keep Utah's lead in the fusion race.