* Uncertainty over nuclear’s future cited
* Coal stock index rises 3.8 pct (Adds more analyst comment, stock moves)
NEW YORK, March 17 (Reuters) - Coal mining shares rose on Thursday amid uncertainty over the future of nuclear power as Japan races to avert a meltdown at a power plant crippled by last week’s earthquake and tsunami.
In afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange, Consol Energy (CNX.N) was up 4.9 percent at $54.96 and Alpha Natural Resources ANR.N rose 4.3 percent to $55.17. Peabody Energy (BTU.N) was 3.6 percent higher at $70.05, Massey Energy MEE.N was up 3.9 percent at $63.18 and Arch Coal ACI.N was 2.2 percent higher at $34.91.
The Dow Jones index of coal company stocks .DJUSCL rose 3.8 percent.
“Long term and short term, coal generation wins by default,” said Stephen Doyle, who runs Doyle Trading Consultants, which specializes in coal.
“The backlash from the (Japan) catastrophe will be huge and at the very least will result in escalated cost estimates that might make nuclear generation as high as electricity from wind and solar.” Thermal, or steam coal, is used to power electricity generating plants.
Analyst Bill Burns of Johnson Rice & Co noted the broad market was higher. “Energy stocks all look pretty strong.”
Asked if investors were switching to coal from nuclear because of events in Japan, he said: “There is a little uncertainty.”
Following the crippling of the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, Germany has ordered the closure of all nuclear plants that began operating before 1980 for at least three months so they could undergo safety checks. (Reporting by Steve James; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Bernard Orr)