Plans to close a German radioactive waste repository in rock salt include as one alternative the construction of a ‘Cross Section Closure (CSC)’ sealing barrier. The proposed material for the sealing barrier is highly compacted bentonite. To investigate the swelling behaviour of a highly compacted bentonite, a large number of laboratory tests were performed. In addition, large scale model tests were carried out to demonstrate the development of a nearly homogeneous and isotropic swelling pressure. The results of the large scale model tests were interpreted numerically based on the models for stress-strain behaviour and water uptake which are implemented in the finite element computer codes FEST03 and HYDOPO. The investigations show good agreement between the results of the model tests and the corresponding analyses and show that the theoretical models are capable of describing the behaviour of sealing structures based on highly compacted bentonite.