UC-Run Lab Searches for Director as Main Candidate Drops Out of Running

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A leading candidate for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory director position has withdrawn his name from consideration because of controversy over his connection with exonerated spy suspect Wen Ho Lee.

Ray Juzaitis, who for six years directed the division of the Los Alamos National Laboratory where Lee worked, withdrew his name because he felt his "effectiveness as Livermore director would have been undermined by the controversy," according to a statement issued by UC President Richard Atkinson yesterday.

Juzaitis, associate director at the Los Alamos lab in New Mexico, is known for his work in nuclear weapons research through science-based stockpile stewardship, and has been hailed by colleagues as "outstanding" and "credible."

UC Regents had planned Friday to disclose their choice for the new director, which some sources said was likely to be Juzaitis. But they canceled the announcement when the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration raised concerns about Juzaitis' connection to Lee.

Both involved in the selection process, the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration demanded a background investigation of Juzaitis.

Lee was investigated by the FBI in 1999 for allegedly downloading nuclear secrets onto his hard drive. He was eventually cleared of the charges after nine months of imprisonment. He later claimed he was targeted because of his Chinese ancestry.

But UC spokesperson Michael Reese said Juzaitis withdrew his name because increased skepticism, had been hard on Juzaitis and his family. In his letter to Atkinson, Juzaitis called the association to the Wen Ho Lee affair an "unwarranted linking."

Reese said Juzaitis' credentials were in no way sullied by his time spent as the director for Lee's division, and that they did not have a close relationship.

"Although neither the university, the Department of Energy nor the National Nuclear Security Administration had called on Juzaitis to withdraw his candidacy, we respect his decision to do so," Atkinson said in a statement.

Members of the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration said they hope there will be better communication between the university and the other groups involved in the governance of the labs.

"The Department of Energy would have preferred advanced notice so that it could have had additional time to conduct background checks of the candidates," said department Spokesperson John Belluardo.

When UC presented Juzaitis as a candidate last week, they failed to disclose his connection to Lee, prompting worry from federal officials.

UC renewed its contract to run the labs for the Department of Energy last year amid skepticism of the university's ability to manage the labs in light of recent security lapses.

UC has managed the nation's only nuclear labs since 1940-a responsibility that has never been bestowed upon any other university.

Juzaitis was selected as one of the four finalists from a strong field of over 40 initial candidates, Reese said.

Congressmember Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., the ranking congressional panelist who oversees the National Nuclear Security Administration, said the situation with Juzaitis was "unfortunate," but that it will lead to a conclusion of the process in a "thorough and transparent manner."

No deadline has been set for selecting the director.


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