Detailed photos of Belgian nuclear plants on Google Earth

Sharp satellite images of Belgian nuclear power stations are there for all to see on Google Earth.  The availability of such detailed images throws up questions about the plants' and our security.

The Belgian nuclear watchdog FANC has confirmed that Google is refusing to take any action to blur the images of Belgian nuclear plants on Google Maps and Google Earth.  FANC speaks of a security risk.

The images show the two Belgian nuclear power plants at Doel, outside Antwerp, and Tihange in Wallonia.  FANC's Ines Venneman confirms her agency is worried: "Last year we studied a report by the French Parliament.  The French too are concerned.  FANC has asked Google to blur the images."

Last October the Belgian home minister sent Google a letter making the request.  "We haven't heard back" says Ines Venneman.  "We're not leaving it at that.  We will examine all avenues to get the pictures blurred."

Google insists there's no legal basis to get the images removed.  It points out that the images were made by a third party and that the request should be made to the owner of the pictures.

FANC is not impressed and points to action undertaken by Google after the Belgian defence department complained about satellite images of the Kleine Brogel airbase in Limburg where nuclear weapons are stored.

The Flemish daily De Tijd that broke the story also notes that the Flemish government website Geopunt.be too shows detailed satellite and aerial pictures of the Doel nuclear plant.