The federal government says it won't begin operating a nuclear waste dump in Nevada until at least 2003, but governors from Western states, including Utah, are trying to head off problems now.

Gov. Norm Bangerter will join other Western governors next week in Seattle to discuss how to keep the DOE from literally running all over the state 15 years from now.Utah's highways may end up with more nuclear waste-laden trucks than any other state if the federal government decides to select remote Yucca Mountain, Nev., for the dump, he said. It is the only site government officials are considering.

"Transportation is as dangerous to a community as storage," Bangerter said Friday.

He believes Utah can pass laws charging expensive fees to truckers and railroad operators who bring nuclear waste through the state. He hopes other Western states will do likewise.

Officials from many states have been closely watching Carlsbad, N.M., where DOE is sending waste categorized somewhere between high- and low-level radiation. They are disturbed by what they see.

Federal energy officials "told us most of the shipments to New Mexico would be by rail. Now we're finding out 100 percent of the shipments will be by truck," said Bob Loux, director of Nevada's nuclear projects agency. He has been closely monitoring the way the DOE is treating states in its shipments to New Mexico.

Although DOE has yet to officially choose Yucca Mountain, Nev., as the site for the dump, Nevada's Gov. Richard Bryan and his staff say they are beginning to understand the way American Indians felt when they were on the short end of broken promises from the federal government.

Western governors say the DOE has broken many promises so far, including one that it would designate a dump in the East as well as the West. Federal officials also have not helped states study how to handle the waste as it passes through.

When Nevada gave neighboring states some of the federal money it was getting for studies, the federal government reduced the money and made a rule that Nevada couldn't share it.

Loux said Nevada hopes the Western states will unite in asking DOE officials to be specific about which roads will be used as shipments pass through each state.