Experimental investigations on the uptake of divalent cations (Sr, Co and Zn) onto illite (Illite du Puy, Le-Puy-en-Velay, France) were carried out by three different international research groups (Institute for Nuclear Waste Disposal, KIT (Germany), Group Waste & Disposal, SCK-CEN, (Belgium) and Laboratory for Waste Management, PSI (Switzerland)) in the framework of the European FP7 CatClay project. The dependence of solid-liquid distribution ratios (Rd values) on pH at trace metal conditions (sorption edges) and on the metal ion concentration (sorption isotherms) was determined in dilute suspensions of homo-ionic Na-illite (Na-IdP) under controlled N2 atmosphere. The experimental results were modelled using the 2 Site Protolysis Non Electrostatic Surface Complexation and Cation Exchange (2SPNE SC/CE) sorption model. The sorption of Sr depends strongly on ionic strength, while a rather weak pH dependence is observed in a pH range between 3 and 11. The data were modelled with cation exchange reactions, taking into account competition with H, K, Ca, Mg and Al, and surface complexation on weak amphotheric edge sites at higher pH values. The sorption of Co on Na-IdP, however, is strongly pH dependent. Cation exchange on the planar sites and surface complexation on strong and weak amphoteric edge sites were used to describe the Co sorption data. Rd values for Co derived from in-diffusion measurements on compacted Na-IdP samples (bulk-dry density of 1700 kg m3) between pH 5.0 and 9.0 are in good agreement with the batch sorption data. The equivalence of both approaches to measure sorption was thus confirmed for the present test system. In addition, the results highlight the importance of both major and minor surface species for the diffusive transport behaviour of strongly sorbing metal cations. While surface complexes at the edge sites determine largely the Rd value, the diffusive flux may be governed by those species bound to the planar sites, even at low fractional occupancies. The pH dependent sorption determined for trace Zn concentrations showed large Rd values across the entire pH range with almost no dependence on the background electrolyte concentration. Additional sorption experiments carried out at substantial fractional Zn loadings demonstrated that the selectivity for the exchange of Na+ for Zn2+ at the planar sites could not explain the large Rd values measured at low pH and trace Zn concentrations. This suggests that another mechanism is ruling Zn uptake under these conditions.