The people of Utah are faced with "the specter of high-level nuclear waste shipments traveling through its major population centers," Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, told a House subcommittee Thursday.

Owens' remarks came at the opening of a House Energy and Environment Subcommittee hearing on the transportation of nuclear wastes to a planned disposal site in Nevada.He has introduced a bill to give states and local governments power over such shipments and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission stronger authority over shipping casks and licensing of waste carriers.

Electric utility groups testified during the session that "many years of experience have proved that the transportation of nuclear waste is safe." Several groups representing utilities that use nuclear fuels told the subcommittee that in 20 years of shipping spent fuel there has never been an accident that released radiation.

Utility witnesses asked the subcommittee not to subject waste shipment to "multiple, possibly conflicting" state and local regulations, but to impose one federally determined safety standard.