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Drawing with the Students of Futaba Future School! Hirono Thermal Power Station Mural Art Project

Part 1:
What Lies Beneath "Entotsu"!?

30 January 2024

On December 21st, a new "symbol of safety" was born within the JERA Hirono Thermal Power Station. We hope that the people working at the power station always keep safety and security in mind. Additionally, we want the local community to know that this power station is a safe and secure facility. With these wishes in mind, we created a tunnel mural. In fact, this mural was created over a period of about 4 months in collaboration with the students from the local Futaba Future School. In DISCOVER JERA, we will introduce the journey to its completion in three parts. First, let's start with Part 1, covering the kickoff phase!

The Theme is "Disaster Prevention" and "Safety"! But What Should We Draw?

Hirono Town is located in the central part of Hamadori (coastal area) in Fukushima Prefecture. Despite being in the Tohoku region (Northeast Japan), this area including Hirono town enjoys a mild climate with little snowfall, and it is surrounded by various activity spots, such as the 'J-Village,' a training facility used by the Japanese national football team, and the renowned surfing spot, 'Iwasawa Beach.' In this town, you can see a certain thing from every corner of the town – it's the JERA Hirono Thermal Power Station, affectionately known as 'Entotsu' (funnel) by the local residents.

Upon entering the premises of "Entotsu" and proceeding towards the coastal area where the power generation facilities are located, a large tunnel appears in front of you. In recent years, due to signs of aging in its paintwork, repairs were planned for this tunnel. Since we have the opportunity, let's make something new with the help of local students! With this in mind, a project to paint murals in collaboration with students from Fukushima Prefectural Futaba Future School, located in Hirono Town, was initiated.

On August 20, a kickoff meeting was held in the conference room of the Hirono Thermal Power Station, bringing together relevant parties. Gathered with somewhat nervous expressions were four students from Futaba Future School, comprising middle school and high school students. First, Mr. Katono, Manager, the Performance Management Group at the Hirono Thermal Power Station and the initiator of the project, explained the objectives of the project.

"At the Hirono Thermal Power Station, in order to fulfill our mission of delivering electricity, we have been continuously engaged in safety activities to ensure that employees do not encounter accidents within the facility, along with disaster preparedness activities to minimize damage in times of disasters. However, achieving zero accidents is not an easy task. To ensure that the people working at the power station always keep safety and security in their mind, and to let the local community know that this is a safe and secure facility, we thought about whether we could create art with a safety theme, with the help of everyone gathered here today."

The theme is straightforward, "Disaster Prevention" and "Safety." However, turning it into a mural is not an easy task. That's why this time, we decided to enlist the help of professionals. We reached out to the mural art company "OVER ALLs Co., Ltd." known for their energetic and bold artistic style and their experiences in creating numerous mural arts. Mr. Akazawa, the company's CEO, will give the following greeting.

"In dramas, there are often scenes where paramedics and firefighters encounter dangerous situations, but in reality, there are people who work tirelessly every day to 'prevent' such situations from happening.
The efforts of these individuals are actually very admirable. In this project, we hope to discover together with you what makes 'the coolness of people at work'."

Following that, Mr. Usui, who is responsible for safety management at the Hirono Thermal Power Station, introduced the efforts being made for safety at the station. People conducting research in the office, inspecting power generation equipment, handling ash after coal has burned, creating scaffolding for construction, and various others were depicted.

"The most important thing in this job is the thought of 'protecting oneself and one's colleagues.' Many "people" are involved in operating the power station. When we concentrate on a task to do a good job, it can sometimes be difficult to pay attention to other things, so I always encourage everyone to work by talking to each other while thinking of themselves and their colleagues. I hope that all of you can also understand these things.""

Let's Get to Know the "Hirono Thermal Power Station" First! Taking a Quick Tour of the Facility

The first place we visited was the tunnel that will serve as the stage for this project. The wall where the art will be created is so tall that it reaches approximately 8 meters when you get close! Some students mentioned that they had experiences creating murals at cultural festivals, but they were excited, saying, "It's the first time I'm drawing something this big!" and "I'm looking forward to painting here!"

Next, we headed to an elevated area from which we could overlook the vast Pacific Ocean and the entire Hirono Thermal Power Station. The Hirono Thermal Power Station covers an expansive area of approximately 1.35 million square meters and includes Units 1 through 4, which use heavy oil and crude oil as fuel, as well as Units 5 and 6, which use coal as fuel*. We could confirm that beneath what is commonly referred to as "Entotsu," there are many facilities.

*Units 1, 3, and 4 were decommissioned as of October 5, 2023.

We then boarded a bus and headed to the "coal storage yard" located below the elevated area. This is where coal is stored and then transported and supplied to the generators in accordance with electricity demand, and mountains of black coal cover the entire area. We were captivated by the sight of the employees from the cooperating company, NANSO-SERVICE Co., Ltd., operating heavy machinery to move those mountains.

What is the reason for training everyday even when accidents don't happen!?

Next, we visited the "Disaster Prevention Center," where two fire trucks were prominently positioned. One of them is a "Large-size Chemical Ladders Fire Pumper," used for water injection and foam discharging in high places that the fire brigade cannot easily reach. The other is a "Foam Solution Transport Vehicle," which supplies Fire-extinguishing Foam in the event of disasters such as hazardous material fires. According to the law, the installation of these two fire trucks and their continuous management by a team of four are mandatory.

In the past, there has never been a single occurrence of a fire at the Hirono Thermal Power Station, and these two trucks have never been deployed. However, Mr. Takagi from the Disaster Prevention Center proudly emphasizes, "Nevertheless, we never skip our daily inspections and training."

"No matter how many fire trucks we have or how many people are stationed here, it's meaningless if they don't come in handy when it really matters. That's why we conduct daily inspections and training, so we are prepared for whatever may happen at any time."

Even if nothing happens, the effort is made to protect the peaceful and uneventful days. That was a fact that you wouldn't know unless you set foot inside the power station.

Afterwards, we entered one of the generators, Unit 1, to get a close look at the "steam turbine" that generates electricity from high-temperature, high-pressure steam. The students were also curious and intrigued by the equipments that they don't typically have the chance to see up close.

Check, do, and check again for any operation! Pay careful attention to each and every detail

The last place we visited was the "Main Control Room" for Units 1 and 2, which use heavy oil and crude oil as fuel. Currently, Units 5 and 6, which use coal as fuel, are in continuous operation. However, in response to the power shortage in the summer of 2023, Unit 2, which had been shut down since 2020, was brought back into operation in June 2023. The monitors display the complex movements of the burners and the interior of the boiler with flames rising vigorously. Mr. Takagi from the main control room explains as follows.

"Here, three individuals monitor and inspect the power generation equipment in two shifts, 24 hours a day. Since we are all human, we cannot guarantee that mistakes won't happen. Therefore, we have operators and verifiers in place for mutual checks to ensure there are no errors in each operation."

Mr. Takagi explains that in the unlikely event of a major anomaly occurring, red warning lights will illuminate. Under strict supervision, these lights, which are not normally active, along with various other indicator lights, flashed during the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake 12 years ago to signal multiple abnormalities.

"Due to the impact of the major earthquake, Units 2 and 4, which were operating at the time, were halted. Subsequently, as a result of a large tsunami, all units, including Units 1, 3, and 5, became inoperable. However, with the diligent assistance of the people of Hirono Town, cooperating companies, and colleagues from other thermal power stations and departments, we were able to resume operations. Unit 5 was restarted three months later, and Units 1 to 4 were back in operation four months later. It was truly a miracle."

We moved on to the question-and-answer session. Countless instruments, switches, and control panels are laid out, and the students are filled with curiosity as if they were in a command room at a space center. They asked questions like, "Right now, it's producing 90,000 kW, but what will the panel display show when it reaches the rated output of 600,000 kW?"

After the Tour - What to Convey to Those Who Have Finished Their Work?

The group returned to the meeting room. The students who appeared completely relaxed after the tour, shared their impressions of the power station visit as follows.

"I was surprised to learn that such a large facility is monitored and operated by a small number of people." "I was amazed to find out how many different people are intricately involved in producing a single unit of electricity."

Listening to that, Mr. Akazawa from OVER ALLs suggested, "Next, let's think together about what kind of feelings we want the people working here to have."

"You will pass through that tunnel when you leave. I'd like you to consider whether it's better for people to glance at it and feel relieved, thinking, 'I safely completed today,' or whether it's better for them to think, 'Let's stay vigilant for tomorrow' until the next time."

The strong desire for safety witnessed at the Hirono Thermal Power Station. In the next part, both the employees of the power station and the students will come together to share ideas and develop a rough sketch for the mural. What kind of ideas will emerge? The details will be reported in part 2!

Part 2 : What to Express in the Mural? Intense Discussions!