The fuel channel (comprising a pressure tube and a calandria tube fabricated from zirconium alloys) in a CANDU reactor undergoes shape changes because of radiation-induced deformation. This is a consequence of the microstructural modification arising from radiation damage produced by the fast-neutron flux. This report summarizes our current understanding of the physical processes responsible for the deformation. With the non-specialist reader in mind, the underlying mechanisms are described in a manner that avoids much of the associated technical terminology. Thus, the basic concepts of plasticity in a crystalline material are introduced and related to the various microstructural defects created during irradiation. In particular, the mechanisms of creep (a time-dependent strain activated by an applied stress) and growth (a time-dependent strain occurring in the absence of stress) are discussed in a non-technical language assisted by simple diagrams. Reference is made to both theoretical investigations (avoiding mathematical complexity) and experimental measurements. It is shown how the qualitative and quantitative knowledge can be used to derive a predictive model for reactor designers and operators. The current status of such a model is evaluated and suggestions for future improvements made.