World's first nuclear cruiser up for auction as scrap

Wed Jul 11, 2012 12:01am EDT
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By Laura L. Myers

SEATTLE (Reuters) - The world's first nuclear-powered surface warship, the USS Long Beach, was put up for auction as scrap metal on Tuesday to be dismantled and recycled, after spending the past 17 years mothballed in a naval shipyard in Washington state.

The 720-foot (219-metre) vessel, the first American cruiser since the end of World War Two to be built new from the keel up, boasted the world's highest bridge and was the last such U.S. vessel with teakwood decks, according to Navy history.

Long Beach, commissioned in 1961, is not the first warship to be recycled. But the defense contractor that exclusively handles such auctions, Government Liquidation, said it would be the first time in its 11-year history that a nuclear powered guided missile cruiser has been sold for scrap.

Other decommissioned U.S. military vessels have been sunk, sold to other countries or more rarely turned into museums open to the public, as was the fate of the storied battleship USS Iowa, which opened in Los Angeles as a museum to much fanfare on Saturday.

"I'm sure that Long Beach was always designated for scrapping. We don't make a lot of ships into museums," said Pat Dolan, spokesperson at the U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command.

All U.S. Navy nuclear cruisers were ordered decommissioned because of defense budget cuts after the 1991 Gulf War during the early 1990s.

Long Beach, which served in Vietnam and provided support during the Gulf War, was decommissioned in 1995 and its two nuclear reactors were deactivated.

Long Beach had 10,000 tons of steel, 300 miles of electrical cable and 450 tons of aluminum, earning it the voice radio call sign "Alcoa" after the aluminum maker of the same name.   Continued...