Nuclear power was on everyone's mind at the debate at the Mariners' Club in Tsim Sha Tsui last month. Ning Po College in Kwun Tong and STFA Tam Pak Yu College in Tuen Mun squared off for the first final in Division Three of the 12th Nesta-SCMP Debating Competition.
The motion was: "The use of nuclear power should be expanded to help meet global energy demands."
Not surprisingly, both teams brought up Japan's nuclear disaster last year, which was triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami.
"The nuclear disaster was the result of irresponsible and immoral human action to expand energy resources," said Anny Yiu Wing-yi, the first speaker for Ning Po, which took the negative argument.
"The consequences of the nuclear disaster are irreversible ... [it] devastated the environment and caused loss of homes and lives," the Form Five student said.
Tam Pak Yu rebutted with arguments supporting nuclear energy.
Nuclear accidents can be avoided by building power plants outside earthquake zones and by investing more in safety, the team said.
"Nuclear power was first introduced in 1951, and until today, there have only been three major accidents. The rate of accidents is low, and the level of risk can be controlled with better technology," said Mak Ka-yan, a Form Five student from Tam Pak Yu.
Both teams also brought up the costs and feasibility of using nuclear power as a renewable energy source.
Tam Pak Yu said nuclear power is reliable and less costly. It pointed out that the mainland and some European countries are planning to expand nuclear energy to meet rising demands.
Ning Po countered that the cost is much higher once people's lives and the environment are factored in. In the case of a nuclear accident, the destruction cannot be put into dollars and cents.
The debate was adjudicated by Deborah Warton, English teacher at Baptist Lui Ming Choi Secondary School in Sha Tin; David Walker, English teacher at Hoi Ping Chamber of Commerce Secondary School in Kowloon; and Brett Craig, English teacher at SKH Lui Ming Choi Secondary School in Aberdeen.
They gave the win to Ning Po, saying the team did a better job of using statistics and facts to support its arguments.
Warton advised Tam Pak Yu speakers to slow down so the audience can follow their arguments. She also said it was the affirmative team's role to define the motion, but it didn't.
Walker was impressed with the rebuttals.
"Rebuttals are the most difficult part in a debate, and both teams demonstrated their ability to think on their feet," he said.
He suggested that all speakers practise more in front of others to improve their presentation.
There was high praise for one speaker, however. Anny of Ning Po was named best speaker of the debate.
Ning Po will face SKH Chan Young Secondary School in the grand final on February 21.
The Nesta-SCMP Debating Competition is organised by the Native English Speaking Teachers' Association and the South China Morning Post. For more information, go to www.nesta.hk/debating.php.