In order to study the nucleation and growth of cracks in the outer oxide scale which expand into the underlying alloy, deformation in creep in oxygen or in vacuum of zirconium and Zircaloy-4 has been studied mainly at 500°C. Influence of applied stresses, atmosphere and alloy’s grade on the deformation and oxidation processes are especially analyzed. The results underline the presence of two distinct deformation domains for both alloys grades, depending on the applied stress value. The presence of the oxide scale leads only to slight modifications on the deformation mechanism but it induces an increase of the deformation rate. This enhancement is especially observed in the case of the pre-oxidized Zircaloy-4 whose cracks remain mainly located in the outer part of the oxide. In opposite, the pre-oxidized zirconium shows cracks located down to the underlying metal. Acoustic emission is used to follow, in situ, in temperature the damage process of the outer zirconia layer during creep, and precisions about the oxidation mechanism and the effect of applied stress on oxygen diffusion and oxide growth rate are obtained thanks to the use of 18O as a marker.