This paper focuses on the numerical simulation of crack initiation and growth in ceramic materials. This work is devoted to nuclear fuel modelling under irradiation and more precisely to fuel pellet fragmentation assessment at macroscopic and microscopic scales. Simulation tools are developed in the framework of a cooperative program between the CEA, EDF and AREVA devoted to a unified fuel performance software environment called PLEIADES. A smeared crack model is proposed to have a continuous description of crack nucleation and growth at macroscopic scale. This unified description is based on crack extension process from the microscopic scale up to the macroscopic scale. In order to deal with unstable crack extension a specific algorithm is proposed to solve the quasi static nonlinear mechanical problem. A 3D application is presented to illustrate performances and robustness of the smeared crack approach to simulate crack extension in nuclear fuel ceramics. In this application with an internal pressure loading a new methodology is proposed in order to avoid convergence problem due to the indetermination of the quasi static formulation of a softening material equilibrium under Neumann boundary condition.