Nearly half of a fund run by Dounreay’s operators to help the far north weather the terminal rundown of the nuclear plant went unspent last year.
The £500,000 annual budget is earmarked to pump-prime new activity which can help offset the jobs being lost at the area’s long-time anchor employer.
It is managed by the Dounreay Socio Economic Alliance (DSEA) and bankrolled by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).
Concern about the impact of Dounreay’s rundown has intensified with Highland Council predicting the Caithness population will drop by one-fifth within 20 years.
The DSEA is part of the industry-led drive to inject new life into the economy and prepare the area for life after Dounreay. It comprises site licence company DSRL; Cavendish Dounreay Partnership, which has the contract to decommission the plant; and the NDA.
For the year ending April 2019, the fund had an underspend of £247,000.
Staff costs accounted for £79,300, while £50,000 went on an offshore wind supply chain study carried over from the previous year.
A total of £35,000 went on inward investment; £33,000 on school/college training initiatives; and £20,000 to support the Dounreay Community Fund.
A further £75,000 went towards the running costs of Caithness Horizons visitor centre and £10,000 each towards business development and the running of Caithness Transport Forum.
The NDA has agreed that all of the £247,000 underspend can be added to the 2019-20 budget.