In Japan, Yet Another Cold Fusion Mystery

It's budget-drafting time for Japan's government agencies, and this year the process is spiced by a politically charged mystery involving the powerful Ministry of International Trade & Industry. In mid-July, the Japanese press reported that MITI plans a huge five-year research campaign to harness cold fusion, spending tens of millions of dollars. But government officials now say that MITI's Natural Resources & Energy Agency will request less than $2 million.

Cold fusion grabbed headlines worldwide in 1989, when two University of Utah researchers claimed they could generate fusion energy in a glass jar. Most scientists subsequently dismissed the idea, but some--including Akito Takahashi, a physicist at Osaka University--have stubbornly kept at it (BW--Mar. 2). Insiders in Japan's cold-fusion clique insist that reports of a major program are accurate. They say the natural resources division is downplaying the plan to avoid a fight with the MITI arm that ordinarily manages nuclear research.

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