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Google Earth prompts security fears

The operators of Australia’s nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights are calling on the heads of the Internet search engine Google to censor its publication of photographs of the site, warning that the images could be used by terrorists. The photos published on an Internet site would have been available only to a handful of government agencies and NASA until recently. But now satellite photography is easily accessible online, with a new search engine program giving up more information than some people would like. Through the Google Earth service one can see a suburb, in some cases one’s house, maybe even one’s car parked in the street outside.

The program also gives a clear aerial view of Australia’s only nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights in Sydney, showing the reactor in the centre of the site with large, white pipes leading from it to other buildings. Details such as cars, trees and perimeter fencing can also been seen. The facility’s operator, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), wants Google to review the reactor’s image. ANSTO chief of operations Dr Ron Cameron says it is prudent to take steps to ensure the best possible security at the site. He says ANSTO has asked Google if there is an opportunity to blur the image of the reactor.