WINGHAM, ONT. -- It appears Ontario will be home to the next “big thing” in nuclear energy.

“Imagine that this field is going to become a world class showcase for small modular reactor technology,” says Ontario’s Minister of Energy Greg Rickford.

Plans to build Canada’s first small modular reactor or SMR at the Darlington Nuclear Site, in the Durham Region, as early as 2028 were announced last month.

Proponents of small modular reactors say, although they’ll produce less electricity, they’re quicker and cheaper to build than typical “baseload” nuclear reactors.

They’re also small enough to be mobile, and power remote towns or massive mining projects. In the pursuit of limiting carbon emissions, the Canadian government launched their Small Modular Reactor Action Plan last week.

“Small modular reactors represent the next great opportunity to take a bold step towards meeting our net zero emissions by 2050. It offers a zero emissions supply in rural and remote communities, which currently rely on diesel fuel, and it creates good middle class jobs,” says Seamus O’Regan, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources.

Bruce County, Ont.'s Bruce Power just started a 13-year, $13-billion refurbishment of six of their eight reactors, extending the life of their nuclear fleet until 2064. So while they’re interested in possibly housing small modular reactors in the future, they’ve got enough on their plate right now.

“I think the Bruce site is ideally positioned. It’s not a competition, it’s really an alignment of how do we fuse all these items together, because we know that in the march to net zero, there’s going to be a need for a lot of clean energy,” says Bruce Power’s Executive Vice-President of Corporate Affairs and Operational Services James Scongack.

But, how clean and agile small modular nuclear reactors are, is still up for debate, says Brennain Lloyd of Northwatch, an environmental protection group.

She says a recent United Nations report suggests climate action is needed in this decade, not decades in the future.

“This is the decade we need to bring those greenhouse gas emissions down. We need to make significant progress and the so-called small modular reactors are simply not going to be in place to help with that."

Lloyd also says the radioactive waste produced by these small modular reactors, still doesn’t have a home.

South Bruce, in Bruce County, and Ignace, in Northern Ontario, remain two communities interested in housing Canada’s high-level nuclear waste.

SMRs aren’t the whole answer to Canada’s climate challenges, concedes O’Regan, but he believes they are part of the solution.

“SMRs are neither a distraction or a silver bullet. This is not the Government of Canada going all in on one option. This is the Government of Canada ensuring we have every tool possible, in our toolbox."