Maryland officials yesterday protested plans to relocate 2,400 employees of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from scattered commission offices in Montgomery County to a central location in downtown Washington.

The move, which would affect directly and the commuting habits of 1,536 NRC employees who are Montgomery County residents, is being proposed by the General Services Administration as part of a consolidation effort. Currently there are nine separate NRC offices, eight of which are located in Montgomery County.

The GSA has recommended that the NRC operations be consolidated "on a suitable site in an urban renewal area" of the District of Columbia. At yesterday's hearing on the proposed move before a U.S. Senate subcommittee, city officials praised the concept.

Lorenzo W. Jacbos, director of the city's Department of Housing and Community Development, said such an action would be "a concrete manifestation of President Carter's new urban policy of 'giving first priorities to cities' in locating new or consolidated federal facilities."

Montgomery County Executive James P. Gleason, however, complained that GSA did not consult with the county's planning office, which he said could make available four suitable locations near a Metro stop in Silver Spring.

Gleason cited a survey that showed that 1,861 of NRC's 2,335 employes live in Maryland, 1,536 of them in Montgomery County. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D.-Md.) and Rep. Newton I. Steers (R-Md.) joined Gleason in opposing a move to the city.

NRC Chairman Joseph M. Hendrie told Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D.-N.Y.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee, that the agency will "operate most efficiently and effectively from a location in downtown Washington."

The NRC was created as an independent agency in 1974, taking over the licensing and regulatory functions formerly assigned to the Atomic Energy Commission. Its headquarters operation develops rules and sets standards for licensing the use of nuclear energy.

It has grown from 1,600 employes to 2,400, and is expected to have 3,200 by 1982. All but about 200 of its present employes work in Montgomery County, 1,524 in six buildings in Bethesda, 528 in the East-West Towers in Silver Spring, and 257 at two locations in Rockville.

Steers testified that consolidation within the county would be "cheaper, more energy efficient and far better for personnel morale." He suggested that GSA had overlooked "the human point of view" in opting for a downtown site that would add commuting time and energy costs to NRC workers, two-thirds of whom live in his congressional district.

Building a new headquarters in Silver Spring, as suggested by Gleason, would require many employes to drive east-west in a county whose main roads run north-south, responded Hendrie.

Wherever NRC is relocated, Hendrie said, some workers will be adversely affected. A key factor in seeking a downtown location, he said, are planned extensions of Metro rail service to the Rockville-Gaithersburg area and north from Silver Spring.

Selection of an urban renewal site in the city would lead to "a major transformation of the old downtown," Jacobs told Moynihan.