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Research Scientist Resigns Administrative Post at Weapons Lab

Times Science Writer

The director of weapons research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has resigned his administrative post to devote full time to research, the lab has announced.

Roy D. Woodruff has for the last five years served as associate director for defense systems at the lab, which is at the forefront of research on the Strategic Defense Initiative, sometimes called “Star Wars.”

Woodruff’s resignation came on the heels of a report in Science magazine of serious problems in the lab’s X-ray laser program, but Woodruff and other sources at the lab insisted that the resignation had nothing to do with the report in Science.

“The events are absolutely unconnected,” Woodruff said in a telephone interview Friday.

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The article in Science, one of the nation’s most respected technical journals, said scientists at the lab were having problems with a focusing element in a nuclear X-ray laser that reportedly was tested earlier this year with an underground nuclear explosion at the Nevada Test Site. The conclusions were attributed to “several scientists familiar with the program.”

The concept behind the weapon is to use a nuclear bomb to generate X-rays that could then be focused on targets in space, destroying them with powerful lasers. According to the report, scientists at the lab at first judged the test a success, but later discovered that their monitoring equipment “had been improperly calibrated,” thus casting doubt on the success of the experiment. In addition, the magazine said, “a new defect” was found in the focusing element of the laser.

Officials at the lab, located at Livermore, Calif., about 40 miles east of San Francisco, said they could not comment on the accuracy of the magazine article because much of the research is secret, but they said the lab is satisfied with the progress of the program.

In addition, lab officials emphatically denied that the magazine report had anything to do with Woodruff’s resignation.

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In a formal statement, Roger E. Batzel, head of the lab, said: “Roy Woodruff’s reassignment has absolutely nothing to do with events referred to in Science.”


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