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Guests of honour at opening of 5 million complex.

Two  of  the  last  people  to  live  on  a  Caithness  farm  before it was transformed  during  the 1950s into a world-leading centre for research and development  of  nuclear energy today returned to their former home to set the seal on a 5 million investment in its decommissioning.

The  farm  at Lower Dounreay was home to Mrs Elizabeth Nicolson until 1945, and  Mr  Morris  Pottinger  until  May 1956. The UK Atomic Energy Authority acquired  the house and farmland from Mr Pottinger and his late wife Nettie in  November  1955  following a Government announcement that Britain's fast reactor experiment would be sited at Dounreay.   The Dounreay farmhouse dates from 1859. Following its acquisition by the UKAEA in 1955, it was used variously for office accommodation and storage of archive material.

Morris Pottinger, Peter Welsh, Elizabeth Nicolson  (Morris & Elizabeth were both former residents of the Farmhouse)

The  experiment  came  to  an  end  in 1994 and the farmhouse, steading and office  buildings subsequently erected around them are now being demolished to  make  way  for  the  construction of new facilities needed to dismantle legacies from that era.

Today,  Mrs  Nicolson  and  Mr Pottinger returned to Dounreay to officially open  a  new,  three-storey  office  block  completed  earlier this year to replace the accommodation being demolished.

In  the  foyer  of  the new 5 million building, which has become the nerve centre  for  decommissioning  of  the  site,  they unveiled a commemorative plaque  made  from  slate removed from the roof of the farmhouse. They were presented with sets of coasters also made from roof slates, as were members of  the Oag family who lived at Lower Dounreay from 1945 until 1953 and who
also attended today's event.

Mrs  Nicolson,  who  now  resides  in Spittal, said: "My father, Major Jack Davidson,  died  while fighting with the 5th Seaforth Highlanders in Sicily in  1943.  Today,  the  honour  of being here allows me to close this final chapter  of his life, and to pay tribute to him and so many others who also gave up their lives in the Second World War."

Mr  Pottinger still runs the neighbouring farm at Isauld, including most of the  land  of the former Lower Dounreay.  His son Tom, now of Baillie Farm, was the last person to be born in the farmhouse at Lower Dounreay.  He said a recent final visit to the old farmhouse had brought back many bittersweet memories of their start in farming half a century earlier.

Dounreay  site  director  Peter  Welsh  said:  "The new accommodation is an investment  in the future of Dounreay and I was delighted that Mrs Nicolson and  Mr  Pottinger,  with their strong historical links to Dounreay's past, accepted our invitation to officially open it.

"The  investment  in  modern  accommodation for 300 or so of our health and safety,  environmental  and  engineering professionals provides them with a first-class  working environment from which they can help us to deliver the decommissioning and restoration of the site."

The  main  contractor for the office construction project was the Robertson Group  of  Elgin.  The  construction  phase  took 18 months to complete and created employment for 70 people.

The  main  contractor  for  the  demolition  of  the  former  farmhouse and surrounding properties is KDC Contractors Ltd.

Dounreay was Britain's centre of fast reactor research and development from 1955 until 1994. Three nuclear reactors, chemical separation plants and a variety of fuel and waste facilities built in support of the experiment are now being decommissioned.