The regents voted unanimously; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, one of the nation’s three nuclear labs, will have a new director in July.
UC President Richard Atkinson appointed Michael Anastasio the next director of the lab on Tuesday. The regents approved the appointment and Anastasio, formerly Livermore’s deputy director for strategic operations, will take office July 1.
Anastasio was not Atkinson’s first choice. He originally tapped Raymond Juzaitis, the associate director of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Weapons Physics Division, often referred to as the X Division because of its top-secret priority. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, who questioned Juzaitis’ involvement with the Wen Ho Lee affair at Los Alamos, overturned the nomination.
Although Juzaitis was found to have little, if anything to do with Lee’s false imprisonment in 1999, he made the decision to withdraw his candidacy for Livermore lab director. After a one-month delay, Atkinson announced the appointment of Anastasio to the position. This time the Dept. of Energy approved the appointment.
“My focus is forward,” Anastasio said. “I’m thinking about how to lead the laboratory into the future. I’m not worried about the past.”
Anastasio, who has worked on nuclear weapons at Livermore for 22 years, will be the ninth director to be appointed in-house at the laboratory and has recently been in charge of the Stockpile Stewardship Program dedicated to maintaining the safety of America’s large collection of aging nuclear warheads.
As deputy director for strategic operations, he has worked closely with many divisions at Livermore. Anastasio has also served in Washington D.C. as a Dept. of Energy science adviser. Atkinson said Anastasio was a good choice because of his knowledge of the lab, his ability to work with Washington and his good relationship with researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory, a traditional rival of Livermore.
“I look forward to a closer relationship between all of the national laboratories,” Atkinson said.
The new lab director will step into a difficult role. Lawrence Livermore has traditionally been charged with poor management and its frequent, often unfavorable comparison to Los Alamos has been the source of tension within the laboratory. Many of the laboratory’s projects have run billions of dollars over budget in recent years. When the search for a lab director began in March, employees at a public comment session described the lab as a nest of discrimination, racial profiling and pay inequity.
The search began after Bruce Tarter, the lab’s second-longest serving director, announced his intention to step down last December. He was happy with Anastasio’s appointment.
“This is a moment I’ve looked forward to,” Tarter said. “I’ve enjoyed working with him tremendously.”
“I’m really honored to be selected,” Anastasio said. “The lab’s in excellent shape and we have exciting new capabilities coming online.”