Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is the leading candidate to replace Steven Chu as energy secretary in President Barack Obama’s second term, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Carter, 58, a physicist, would be part of the core administration team overseeing energy and environmental policy, according to the people, who requested anonymity to discuss personnel matters.

Chu, 64, a Nobel Prize winning physicist, may announce his departure from the administration this week, according to two other people. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Lisa Jackson, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency, previously announced their intentions to exit the administration.

The energy secretary will have a central role as Obama attempts to translate into policy the pledge he made in his Jan. 21 inaugural address to “respond to the threat of climate change.”

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