SALT LAKE CITY — Utah transportation officials and state radioactive waste regulators say shipments of mischaracterized nuclear waste to Nevada may be reported under federal regulations, but it isn't clear if anyone in this state knew about it.

The truth is all manner of material, hazardous or radioactive, travels by rail or truck on corridors throughout Utah, and the Utah Department of Transportation is not notified in advance, said spokesman John Gleason.

Truck drivers have to have special training in hazardous materials, have a manifest describing what's on board and have their commercial driver's license, he explained, but local communities or HAZMAT responders aren't notified in advance of any shipments rolling through.

Rusty Lundberg, deputy director of the Utah Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control, said under certain circumstances the division does get advance notification, but it depends on the type of radioactive waste.

That fact likely won't set well with a coalition of nine organizations in Utah and the Southwest, including nuclear waste watchdog groups, who are demanding answers from Utah Gov. Gary Herbert about what protocols are in place for notification, in particular emergency responders.

"Utah has a complicated history with nuclear weapons testing, which exposed our citizens to dangerous radioactivity without their knowledge,” said Dr. Scott Williams, executive director of the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah, or HEAL Utah.

"The last thing Utahns need is another risk to our safety due to a lack of transparency from the federal government. Our state leaders should recognize this and ensure that no Utahn is unnecessarily exposed to nuclear waste of any kind.”

The pressure on Herbert, whose office said he has not yet had a chance to review the groups' letter, comes after the U.S. Department of Energy admitted this month that for as long as six years it had shipped radioactive waste that fell outside the Nevada National Security Site's waste acceptance criteria. The site is a DOE facility.

The federal agency also shipped weapons-grade plutonium last year to the Nevada site for disposal over the objection of Nevada's political leaders who sought to legally block the waste — but after the shipment had already arrived.

Lundberg said too little information is known at this time to determine if the division would have received any advance notification on these shipments, but he added there are strict federal requirements in place.

"There is a very structured regulatory set of requirements that dictate the transport of hazardous and radioactive material in our country," he said.

The Western Governors' Association has an agreement in place with the federal energy agency for notification of any transportation of transuranic waste bound for its Waste Isolation Pilot Plant about 30 miles outside of Carlsbad, New Mexico.

The plant is the nation's only repository for transuranic waste, which is clothing, rags, residue and other material contaminated with small amounts of plutonium or other man-made radioactive material.

According to its website, it received its 12,500th shipment in June of waste that is buried in rooms carved out of a deep geologic salt bed layer 2,000 feet underground. The disposal of the high level legacy waste has cleaned up 22 generator sites across the country.

The groups' letter also asks Herbert to take a public stand with Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to oppose disposal of high level radioactive waste at Yucca Mountain, Nev., which is getting another look by Congress, and any temporary storage of high level radioactive waste in New Mexico.

In the aftermath of the botched shipments to Nevada, the federal energy agency has suspended any additional shipments of radioactive waste to that facility while it does a review to accurately characterize the waste. An internal investigation is underway as well.

Williams stressed the problem is if Nevada's governor was unaware of the shipments at the test site, likely Herbert was as well. Utah's governor, he added, should have had the opportunity to notify emergency responders in the appropriate communities in case of an accident.

The groups sending the letter were HEAL Utah, the Utah Sierra Club, the Citizens Education Project, Uranium Watch, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Southwest Research and Information Center, the Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force and the Southwest Research and Information Center.