Ontario Premier Doug Ford was in Clarington, Ont., Friday to mark the beginning of site preparation for Canada’s first grid-scale small modular reactor (SMR) at the Darlington nuclear site.

The Premier was joined by Minister Energy Todd Smith to mark the milestone.

“With global businesses looking to expand in jurisdictions with clean and cost-effective electricity, small modular reactors will help compete for and attract more game-changing investments in Ontario’s economy,” Ford said.

 “Our government is getting it done and building the future of nuclear energy right here in Ontario to support the needs of our growing province.”

The new SMR will be Ontario’s first nuclear reactor built in a generation, according to the Ministry of Energy, and will deliver 300 MW of electricity, “enough to power 300,000 homes.”

In March 2022, constructor E.S. Fox was awarded the contract to deliver early site preparation work, which includes water supply, electrical power, information technology and road services.

“This work, valued at $32 million, will support over 100 new jobs in the Durham region,” the Ministry of Energy said in a release issued Friday.

Currently, about 60 per cent of Ontario’s daily power usage comes from nuclear plants, but demand is growing.

As older nuclear plants near retirement age, the Independent Electricity System Operator has said natural gas will be needed in the coming years or there could be rolling blackouts across the provincial grid and higher electricity bills by 2030.

Yet, Minister Smith has maintained nuclear power will be the “backbone” of Ontario electricity in years to come as the province looks to reach net-zero when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Labour could prove another hurdle — the Ontario government has estimated there will be a skilled trade shortage of 350,000 people by 2025.

“It is something we’re working very closely with the province in a variety different areas into the trade,” said Ontario Power Generation President Ken Hartwick.

Once open, the new Darlington plant would employ 200 people during operations, as well as 2,300 jobs during planning and development, according to a 2020 study by the Conference board of Canada.

It's scheduled to be completed by 2028.

With files from CTV’s Andrew Brennan.