New Queensland research has found coral reefs can survive a nuclear explosion but may not be able to survive global warming.

Scientists at Townsville's James Cook University have found healthy coral reef populations growing inside the Bravo atomic bomb crater in the Marshall Islands. The Bravo crater was formed in 1954 by a bomb a thousand times more powerful than the one dropped on Hiroshima.

Researcher Zoe Richards says since the nuclear testing program, the reefs in the Marshall Islands have been left largely undisturbed for more than 50 years.

"It can survive a nuclear detonation if there's healthy reefs nearby to source it's recovery and if there's no people continuing the stress," she said.

"It will be very, very interesting to see whether these reefs that have survived nuclear tests can also survive climate change."