A location on the north coast of Caithness in Highland Council Area, 10 miles (16 km) west of Thurso, Dounreay is principally recognised as the site of the Dounreay Nuclear Power Development Establishment. Located at Lower Dounreay and opened in 1954, this nuclear power facility was built on a former Second World War airfield, a site chosen for its remoteness from the largest cities of the UK. Designed to find ways of producing cheaper energy, fuel reprocessing began here in 1958 and in 1962 it was the first fast-breeder reactor in the world to supply energy to the public electricity supply. A second Prototype Fast Reactor began operating in 1974 and by the late 1970s nearly 3500 people were employed. A reduction in staffing began in 1989 when the government decided to wind down the Fast Breeder Reactor programme and in 1994 the experimental reactor was closed.

The remains of the 16th century Dounreay Castle, once home to the Mackay Lords of Reay, lies within the nuclear plant. A small farming settlement lies 1¼ miles (2 km) to the southeast at Upper Dounreay.

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