A backfill placed between a nuclear waste canister and the host geology of a nuclear waste repository can impede the migration of water through the waste package and retard the movement of radionuclides into the geologic formation. Hydraulic conductivities and swelling pressures are being determined as functions of the density of the compacted backfill, temperature, radiation dose, hydraulic head and the chemical composition of the permeating fluid. Bentonite clays and bentonite/sand mixtures have received initial emphasis. Sodium bentonite and calcium bentonite samples compacted to a dry density of 2.1 g/cm3 had hydraulic conductivities in the range of 10−12 to 10−13 cm/s. In addition, batch distribution ratios (Rd) for Sr, Cs, Am, Np, I, U and Tc have been measured for a number of candidatebackfill materials. Both initial permeability and sorption studies have used a synthetic basaltic ground water.