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Dounreay's pioneering history is retold in 50th anniversary book

July 09, 2008

A new book captures the remarkable story of how a remote farming area in the Scottish Highlands was catapulted to the forefront of nuclear development 50 years ago.

Fifty Years of Dounreay, written by William A. Paterson and published by North of Scotland Newspapers, goes on sale July 26.

It describes how the arable land of Lower Dounreay on the north coast of Scotland was transformed by Britain’s leading nuclear physicists who pursued their dream of finding a source of limitless, clean and cheap energy.

This little-known area earned its place in history in 1962 when Dounreay became the first reactor of its kind to supply electricity to a national grid.

Dounreay was due to close shortly afterwards. But for a variety of reasons, not the least being the success of the venture and the professionalism of its staff, Dounreay’s life was extended in the 1960s when it was chosen for Britain’s second fast breeder reactor.

Not all went well, as was to be expected in so large an undertaking, and today, almost 15 years after the last reactor closed down, the clean-up and dismantling operation continues.

William A. Paterson, a freelance writer and regular columnist for the local John O’Groat Journal, was commissioned by North of Scotland Newspapers to capture the dramatic story. Funding came from Dounreay to mark the 50th anniversary of the site.

He said: “It was a great privilege to be involved with Dounreay and to meet with some of the staff. Although Dounreay is now shrouded in controversy and will probably ever be so, the pride of the staff in being part of such a grand experiment is evident – and quite rightly so. The story of Dounreay is their story.”

Fifty Years of Dounreay is available directly from North of Newspapers, Wick, and local retailers, priced £17.95. Mail order copies are available directly from North of Scotland Newspapers, Wick (£3.11 p & p for UK; £5.46 p & p for Europe; £9.29 p & p for rest of world). (ISBN 978-1-871704-37-2)

Proceeds from the sale will be donated to Dounreay Communities Fund, which assists charitable causes in Caithness and north Sutherland.

The official launch of the book by North of Scotland Newspapers takes place on July 26 at Halkirk Highland Games, where DSRL parent company UKAEA and its partners AMEC and CH2MHILL have a marquee.

To be capable of building reactors that can produce as much electricity as we need, almost for ever, without polluting the environment with combustion products or having to import any new fuel, is some achievement. The fast reactor is the yardstick against which anything else proposed for long-term energy will have to be measured.

- Former UKAEA chairman Sir John Hill, 1994

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