Otaru high-school student Niikawa qualifies for all-Hokkaido English speech contest with nuclear waste problem-themed speech

Niikawa Aya, who won a regional qualifying round of an English speech contest with a speech on the theme of the nuclear waste

An Otaru high-school student, Niikawa Aya (16) will take part in the all-Hokkaido English speech contest to be held Chitose on December 13, after winning the Shiribeshi regional qualifying round (organized by Hokkaido Senior High School Cultural Federation) in October. The theme Niikawa chose to speak about was high-level radioactive waste (nuclear waste) from nuclear power stations. As the town of Suttsu and village of Kamoenai in central Hokkaido apply for a preliminary survey to be selected as a disposal site, Niikawa – who was born in the nearby town of Kuromatsunai – received high acclaim for her argument that “adjacent towns and villages will be impacted, and discussions are necessary in order to be able to save the wonderful nature for children of the future.”

 Niikawa spoke in fluent English for approximately 5 minutes on the subject titled “Our Future in 100,000 Years”. One hundred thousand years is the length of time it takes for nuclear waste to become harmless.
 The speech touched upon how Suttsu’s Mayor Kataoka has put the town’s name forward for a preliminary survey, while raising concerns about environmental pollution and harmful rumors regarding industry. Raised in Kuromatsunai, Niikawa believes “nature should be treasured” and is “afraid memories and treasures will be destroyed” by the nuclear waste problem. Niikawa improved her language skills while attending an English school in Kuromatsunai since she was a 1st-grade elementary school pupil.
She chose nuclear waste as the theme of the speech in the hope that “it will make many people think about the problem”. Niikawa herself is against the plan as she believes she is “a member of the generation that will be directly confronted by the problem in the future”. She wrote the speech over a period of about a month from early September, while referring to reports in newspapers and the like, and completed it after confirming pronunciation and expressions with a foreign language teaching assistant.
Four contestants took part in the regional qualifying round in which most students chose familiar themes such as family and the like, but Niikawa won through to the all-Hokkaido contest with her social-themed contents.
Even though Niikawa understands that a government grant of up to 2 billion yen – which the preliminary survey application could bring – would be attractive to the region where finances have been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, she sees the all-Hokkaido contest as a chance to “draw attention to the nuclear waste problem with a sense of commitment, because if we allow this now, anxiety will remain in the future.”