Japan backs coal after Fukushima disaster

Japanese leaders emphasized the importance of coal in the country’s new energy plan, disappointing environmentalists who thought the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011 would push it toward renewable energy.

The plan approved April 11 by Japan’s Cabinet puts coal on equal footing as nuclear energy, Bloomberg News reported.

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Much of the country’s nuclear generating capacity has been shut down for safety checks since the Fukushima disaster, in which three nuclear reactors melted down. Fossil fuels accounted for 62 percent of Japan’s electricity before the incident, with nuclear accounting for another third, Bloomberg said.

Utilities have largely filled the nuclear gap with fossil fuels, which accounted for 90 percent of Japan’s electricity in the 2012 fiscal year.

Green groups in Japan hoped that the energy plan would emphasize renewables such as wind, solar and geothermal energy, Bloomberg reported. They were disappointed in the Cabinet’s new policy, saying it will increase carbon dioxide emissions and it missed an opportunity to encourage innovation.

Japan also hopes more coal use will help the country develop new coal technology that it could export.