Explosion at French nuclear site; use historical imagery to see it in Google Earth

There was an explosion at a French nuclear plant this morning that took the life of one worker and injured a few others. Fortunately, no leak has been reported and things seem to be under control.
I went to view the site in Google Earth (found via this KML file), but the view of the area is obscured in Google Earth.


However, a quick click of the historical imagery button reveals the full plant in high resolution, dated back to 2002.

The plant first went operational in 1956, and while things may have changed slightly in the last 9 years, the aerial imagery from 2002 seems to closely resemble the shots being shown on sites like Yahoo news.
So what’s the purpose of blurring the imagery if it’s that easy to obtain clear shots? Here are a few thoughts/ideas:
1 — Google itself doesn’t blur imagery; only their providers do. With that in mind, it seems unlikely that Google would ever go back and blur historical imagery if it was provided to them in an un-blurred state at some point. Another potential complication is that the most recent imagery was provided by GeoEye, while the older (clear) imagery was provided by DigitalGlobe.
2 — Perhaps some construction at the site has been under way and things are different now than they were in 2002, or perhaps they are simply blurring the plant going forward to hide any changes that take place in the future.
3 — The imagery in Bing Maps is only slightly blurred; it’s still easy to see where the various buildings are located, though Bing doesn’t provide a precise date on their imagery.
Any other thoughts? Is obscuring imagery becoming futile with so many imagery and mapping providers out there now?

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.


  1. Bing provides a date range in the HTTP headers returned for the images, in this case (US format):
    X-VE-TILEMETA-CaptureDatesRange: 5/5/2005-6/7/2006

  2. James — I didn’t realize they do that; thanks for the tip!

  3. I still remember trying to locate the new headquarters for Orange County Choppers couple of years back – only to be confronted by some faux blurry effect that melted all the detail away!
    But seeing as it sits in the corner of Stewart Intl Airport (an emergency landing runway for the space shuttle and who knows what else) I decided it wasn’t at the behest of Paul Snr. to hide his new business from his son. 😛

  4. Sorry, meant to add location:
    41°30’19.13″ N 74°04’42.21″ W

  5. I agree that the term “for security reasons” has become a catch phrase for scammers, spammers, and lazy politicians with things to hide; but, whose of you wringing your hands about “why would they do that?” – do you not think that “it’s a nuclear power plant” is enough reason?

  6. @ DJ
    Do you really think foreign countries don’t have the exact and detailed view ?
    As for terrorists, they don’t have to view google Earth to know their targets, I’m sure that wouldn’t help.

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