WASHINGTON—Almost five months after President Reagan announced the intention to nominate him, plasma physicist Robert Hunter waits in San Diego for word of his confirmation hearing to become director of the Office of Energy Research at the Department of Energy.

The office, overseen since April by acting director James Decker after the departure of Alvin Trivelpiece, is the focal point for several of the hottest issues on the nation’s science agenda, including the Superconducting Supercollider, the proposal to sequence the human genome, and the role of the national laboratories in commercializing basic research. But Hunter is 3,000 miles away running a company, Western Research Corporation, that explores laser technologies.

“I’m trying to educate myself by reading documents and reports, but I don’t have access to anything that isn’t public,” said Hunter. “I am not involved officially in any departmental business.”

The subcommittee of the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee...

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