Huge crane sold to China

Published Nov. 5, 1990|Updated Oct. 18, 2005

A colossal remnant of a futuristic project that would have supplied major cities with electricity from floating nuclear power plants is about to leave Florida. The world's largest crane, designed to build the offshore nuclear systems, is being dismantled along the St. Johns River for shipment to the China.

The crane is being taken down by workers from the China State Shipbuilding Corp. at Blount Island for shipment by Christmas to a port on the Yellow Sea.

The Chinese reportedly paid $3-million for the 38-story crane, which cost about $15-million when it was built for Offshore Power Systems, owned by Westinghouse Inc. and Tenneco Inc.

The crane was supposed to be used to build the nuclear plants that would generate power while floating offshore from major cities.

The first plant was to be launched in 1979, and nine more were to follow quickly. The project, expected to bring the largest single industry ever to Florida, was approved by the Florida Cabinet in 1972.

OPS spent $124-million developing Blount Island with 1,000 employees, and the crane was erected in 1978.

But Jacksonville's plans to buy two of the power plants faltered in 1974, and Public Service Gas and Electric Co. of New Jersey delayed its purchase of four plants.

The demand for alternative energy sources weakened after the Arab oil embargo, and the popularity of nuclear power faltered following the Three Mile Island accident.