Nuclear Scoreboard

(19 December 2009; updated 21 February 2010)



In order to encourage and contribute to a broader assessment of various historical factors that have affected the development of nuclear power and the attainment of nuclear-weapons stability, I have compiled a “Nuclear Scoreboard.” It gives qualitative comments about progress or lack of progress divided into two areas: civilian (nuclear) industry and national (nuclear) security.

It amounts to a solitary “expert” assessment (see my profile, Alexander DeVolpi). I will attempt to adjust it on the basis of comments received. For more details about the basis for this scoreboard, please see my Knol “A CENTURY OF PROGRESS in Nuclear Understanding and Information (The Role of Skeptics, Cynics, Misinformants, and Charlatans.)


Civilian Industry 

Topic Claim Time Passed Fact
Chernobyl Public Casualties tens to hundreds-of-thousands of deaths more than 20 years none clinically identified, but could be a few-thousand premature deaths
Chernobyl Emergency Worker Casualties thousands more than 20 years about 55 deaths
Low-Level Ambient Radiation many deaths from ambient radiation eons mostly beneficial to human speciation and survival
Food Sterilization harmful decades increasing commercial and astronaut use
Electricity Cost expensive to some, cheap to others half-a-century competitive
Electricity Reliability unreliable half-a-century 90% reliability
Radiation from Reactors causes cancer many decades none
Occupational Radiation Exposure causes cancer many decades no measurable harm from low doses
Radon in Basements induces cancer many decades much less harmful than feared
Hiroshima-Nagasaki survival rates high rate of fatalities expected for A-bomb survivors more than half-a-century  remarkable survival rates despite radiation exposures
China Syndrome meltdown through reactor floor half-a-century confined within reactor
Greenhouse Gas Emissions reactors contribute half-a-century negligible
Plutonium Recycling dangerous and costly decades contained and needed
Spent-Fuel Reprocessing dangerous and costly decades routine and economical
Materials Safeguards prone to diversion many decades none at all diverted
Waste Management and Storage hazardous and costly many decades safe and stable
Land/Sea Reactor-Fuel Transportation risky to population en-route half-a-century no release of contained radioactive material; no injuries 
Resource Conservation unimportant many decades now very important
Reactor Safety unknown and danger-prone half-a-century remarkably safe
Medical Radiation Applications minor and risky half-a-century common use
Research and Testing Reactors dangerous half-a-century safe and ubiquitous
Radiation Production Reactors unneeded and expensive half-a-century valuable and cost-effective
Ship Propulsion efficient and inexpensive decades efficient, but expensive
Radioisotope Batteries dangerous decades useful and safe
Capital Cost too high decades high, but competitive
Reactor Lifetime 30 years 30+ years        60 years
Comparative Growth predicted to decline since 1974 has grown to 43% of all energy production
Fuel Resources limited and expensive supply half-a-century nearly limitless and affordable
Research Applications very few  half-a-century very many


National Security 

Topic Claim Time Span Current Status
Explosive Testing endless and hazardous half-a-century underground and controlled
Warfare open-ended and uncontrollable more than half-a-century managed and controllable
Proliferation increasing and endless more than half-a-century leveled off and manageable
Materials Diversion great risk and opportunity more than half-a-century practically none
Reactor-Grade Plutonium Weaponization inevitable and practicable more than half-a-century none at all
Weapons-Grade Material Production endless and uncontrollable more than half-a-century coming to a voluntary halt
Weapons Demilitarization no hope decades slowly happening
Weapons Abolition a dream decades still a dream
Plutonium Demilitarization dangerous and futile many decades practical and ongoing
Uranium Demilitarization feasible but resisted many decades ongoing and profitable
Siberian Reactor Conversion needed for nonproliferation two decades now moot
Immobilization/Vitrification for reactor and weapons plutonium two decades unsafe and wasted effort
Terrorists Building Explosives any day now decades highly improbable
Terrorists Acquiring Weapons especially after collapse of USSR two decades none known to be diverted
Reactor Security vulnerable to terrorist attack many decades no such events
Dirty Bombs easily fabricated and dangerous decades over-hyped
Materials Security large risk of diversion many decades practically none
Military-Waste Management expensive and necessary many decades expensive and necessary
Nuclear-Weapons Transportation on Land endangered populations more than half-a-century no known fatalities or injuries 
Nuclear-Weapons Transportation by Aircraft nuclear-detonation risk  more-than half-a-century     many accidents; no nuclear detonations; no nuclear-related fatalities 
Nuclear Reactors and Nuclear Weapons on Naval Vessels hazardous in port and at sea half-a-century submarines lost at sea without civilian casualties 
Military and Civilian Linkage easy to make nuclear weapons more than half-a-century only in imaginations
Arms Control formal measures needed half-a-century successful
Verification widely needed many decades successful to extent implemented
Strategic De-Emphasis needed to avoid accidental warfare many decades natural outcome of collapse of USSR
De-Targeting don’t aim at cities and nuclear retaliatory targets many decades happening by default after collapse of USSR
De-Alerting no need for continuous alert many decades happening by default
De-Mating no need to keep missiles armed with nuclear warheads many decades slowly happening by default
De-MIRVing reduce number of warheads per missile many decades provides more stable deterrence
De-Creasing Arsenals less risk of breaking out into nuclear war and lower cost ups and downs of the Cold War taking place by attrition
De-Fending defend against ballistic-missile attack many decades rather futile, but non-offensive
De-Weaponizing Outer Space to protect satellites many decades still needed for mutual security
De-Militarizing Fissile Materials impossible to do many decades on-going commercial operations
Naval Propulsion dangerous and cavalier many decades safe and stable
Civilian-Military Linkage chronic and destabilizing  more than half-a-century chronic but stable