Abstract Cubic yttria-stabilized zirconia (YSZ) can be used for nuclear applications as an inert matrix for actinide immobilization or transmutation. Indeed, the large amount of native oxygen vacancies leads to a high radiation tolerance of this material owing to defect recombination occurring in the atomic displacement cascades induced by fast neutron irradiation or ion implantations, as showed by molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. Amorphization cannot be obtained in YSZ either by nuclear-collision or electronic-excitation damage, just like in urania. A kind of polygonization structure with slightly disoriented crystalline domains is obtained in both cases. In the first steps of damage, specific isolated point defects (like F+-type color centers) and point-defect clusters are produced by nuclear collisions with charged particles or neutrons. Further increase of damage leads to dislocation-loop formation then to collapse of the dislocation network into a polygonization structure. For swift heavy ion irradiations, a similar polygonization structure is obtained above a threshold stopping power value of about 20–30keVnm−1.