Friday, 16 March 1990 Washington, DC
1. BOB HUNTER IS GONE, BUT THE FUSION ENERGY CONTROVERSY LIVES ON.
Last fall, before the controversial Director of the DOE Office of
Energy Research abruptly resigned under a cloud, he was pushing a
proposal to defer the Compact Ignition Tokamak and transfer the
savings to inertial confinement research. The CIT has been put on
hold, but the issue of balance between the magnetic and inertial
fusion programs still has not been settled. Secretary Watkins last
week named a Fusion Policy Advisory Committee, headed by Guyford
Stever, the all-purpose chairman who just finished reviewing the
Moon/Mars mission (WN 9 Mar 90).
The new committee has been asked
to review a draft policy for competition between the two fusion
approaches; its interim report is expected in July and the final
report by September. Meanwhile, several prominent scientists
reportedly have turned down the Energy Research Director's job.
2. THE SUPER PROVIDER IS UP TO $8B, BUT FOREIGN HELP IS SCORNED!
Accepting more than $1B from foreign countries would mean "We'd
have to give up too much of the contracts for magnets" to other
countries, according to Deputy Secretary of Energy Henson Moore.
What he did not say is that the support of Louisiana's powerful
Senator Bennett Johnston, who chairs the Energy Committee, is
essential to the project--and Louisiana is a hopeful bidder on
the magnet contract. Moore's comment was made Monday, at a press
conference at which he announced that, in spite of the second
billion dollar markup in the sticker price in just two months,
the White House still backs the megaproject. Even the new price
tag is not much more than a "back-of-the-envelope figure," Moore
said, implying it may go yet higher. Moore's rhetoric seems to
have escalated along with the cost estimates; opponents were
characterized as "modern-day Luddites."
3. A HEARING ON THE HEALTH IMPLICATIONS OF ELECTRIC POWER LINES
attracted an overflow audience last week, but few members of the
House Interior subcommittee showed up. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ)
testified on behalf of legislation mandating maximum field strength
standards for 60 hertz magnetic and electric fields. It is not
clear on what basis such standards would be set, since no one has
been able to measure any deleterious effects. Attempting to explain
the public's comparative apathy toward radon, a proven hazard, with
its concern over the supposed danger of power line fields, the head
of the Office of Radiation Programs at EPA explained that people
can see power lines. That's not all they see; a dental hygienist,
who heads a local group of power line opponents in Pennsylvania,
testified that some people can both see and feel magnetic fields.
4. THE SEARCH FOR ERICH BLOCH'S REPLACEMENT AS DIRECTOR OF NSF,
when his six-year term expires at the end of August, 1990, has
already been intiated. Some organizations have been submitting
lists of suggested names for the postion to Allan Bromley, who is
expected to have a strong voice in the selection of a new director.