New York Poised to Close Last Coal-fire Power Plant

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Construction Commences on Enel’s Aurora Wind Farm in North Dakota

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Industry News

Congress Gets Fusion Research Legislation

LCG, May 10, 2001Legislation to accelerate research into fusion an as yet elusive means of producing nuclear power was introduced yesterday in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat.

"It is time for this country to move beyond caveman technology to the technology of the future, fusion technology," said Lofgren as she announced the legislation to reporters while posing in front of the Capitol Hill Power Plant, which burns coal, oil and natural gas.

Conventional nuclear power plants operate on the principle of fission, in which atoms are split by neutrons and, in a chain reaction, produce more neutrons to split more atoms. With fusion, atoms are welded together to produce power, and there is no high-level radioactive water.

The process has intrigued scientists for decades, but a power plant employing fusion is still more decades in the future, they say.

"We're still a long way away. Thirty years ago they used to say it would be 30 years, and they're still saying the same thing," said Robert Park, a physics professor at the University of Maryland. "We can fuse atoms every day, but the trick is when you produce more energy than it takes to get there."

Fusion research funds have decreased about 40 percent in the past decade, and Lofgren wants to reverse that. Her legislation, the Fusion Energy Sciences Act of 2001, seeks an increase of $72 million over the next two years. It would also require the energy secretary to submit a plan by July 2004 for the next major step in fusion energy, a burning-plasma experiment.

The fusion process should not be confused with so-called "cold fusion," a discredited theory that one reads about in the same magazines that carry articles on how your automobile can be made to run on water instead of gasoline.

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