WHAT'S NEW, Friday, 27 October 1989 Washington, DC
IT WAS INERTIAL FUSION'S TURN--BUT ITS CHAMPION WASN'T THERE.
The House Committee on Science Space and Technology continued its
hearings into the status and directions of the fusion energy
program, which began three weeks ago with magnetic confinement
fusion (WN 6 Oct 89). Inertial
and magnetic fusion programs are
similar in terms of estimated time and cost of development, and
it becomes a question of relative feasibility. Although much of
the inertial fusion program is weapons-related, the hearings were
confined to the non-classified program and its civilian uses for
energy production. The key issue has been the intention of Robert
Hunter, the DOE Director of Energy Research, to defer the Compact
Ignition Tokamak and transfer the savings to inertial fusion. But
Hunter was not at the hearing, and this afternoon DOE announced
that he had resigned his position, effective immediately.
. COLD FUSION HAD ITS TURN LAST WEEK--BUT THE PRESS WASN'T THERE
to report what happened
(WN 20 Oct 89). Attendance at the
meeting, which was sponsored by the NSF and the Electric Power
Research Institute, was by invitation only. The fifty scientists
who were allowed to attend agreed not to disclose what they
learned to the press. Nevertheless, at an NSF press conference
after the meeting, the organizers claimed that recent research
findings justify additional funding of cold fusion research.
Some of the participants disagree and feel that the press
conference violated the gag agreement. The whole thing appears
to have violated NSF policy. In April, NSF Director Erich Bloch
issued an "Important Notice" to heads of NSF grantee institutions
which states, "The NSF advocates and encourages open scientific
communication." There are circumstances under which the NSF
properly meets behind closed doors to protect the privacy of
research proposals, but that does not seem to be the case here.
3. ERICH BLOCH LEFT THE ASTRONOMY ADVISORY COMMITTEE SPEECHLESS
today, as he did the Physics Advisory Committee a week ago. The
good times are over, he warned; science has been in fat city in
recent years, but now we must prepare to pay for our high living
with a few lean years! Well, at least we have our memories.
4. GLOBAL WARMING DOMINATED THE QUESTIONING OF ALLAN BROMLEY
at a Senate hearing on the nominations of Thomas Ratchford and James
Wyngaarden as the first two Associate Directors of OSTP. Senator
Albert Gore wanted to know why the US was reluctant to send the
head of EPA to a conference in the Netherlands for environmental
ministers from 70 countries . The meeting is intended as a first
step toward a treaty limiting burning of fossil fuels. Bromley
and Reilly will attend but may not take with them any proposals.
Gore feels the US should be taking a leadership position. Bromley
turned out to be as adept at not answering Gore's questions as
Gore was at rephrasing them. Wyngaarden will cover Life Sciences.
Ratchford will handle International Affairs and Policy.