One aspect of the current tizzy over the future course for IAEA safeguards is a certain frustration expressed by a number of  states about how the IAEA’s terms of reference all fit together exactly. Above all, confusion reigns in these quarters about the extent of congruity between Integrated Safeguards and State-Level Safeguards. Are they the same or not? Does the second follow from the first, or is it the other way round? I can’t count how many times over the last three months I have heard these questions asked by diplomats who are not verification experts.

At a still deeper level, more than a few people on hand for the GC and board meetings this year have imparted that I was not alone in wrestling with the difference between the State-Level Concept for IAEA safeguards and the State-Level Approach. I plead guilty to have used these terms interchangeably (and in my drafting of this article my peer reviewers didn’t seem to mind). You will find both terms in the text of the 2012 General Conference resolution on safeguards (GC(56)/COM.5/L.3/Rev.2) but, as someone who really knows this stuff pointed out to me this week, there is a difference in what they mean.

You’ll find SLA defined here in the safeguards glossary. But you won’t find SLC.

My interlocutor writes:

SLA means the safeguards approach adopted for a specific state. The SLC is a level above the SLA in generality, and there the issue arises about whether the DG informs the BOG about the ‘conceptual framework’ of safeguards in a GOV/INF document — which is what they did in 2002 for Integrated Safeguards — or if the DG asks the BOG to take some other action (e.g. approve) in which case a GOV document is submitted.

There you have it from the horse’s mouth.

The text of GC(56)/COM.5/L.3/Rev.2, agreed to by the BOG in September, passes muster but is hardly a  model of clarity. Preambular paragraph (m) refers to “the work being undertaken by the Secretariat in conceptualizing and developing State-level approaches to safeguards” (my emphasis) instead of referring to the SLC (Why, if the paragraph is concerned with conceptualization here?–but perhaps the answer is that conceptualization of approaches for individual states is meant). It looks like operative paragraph 20 got it right in referring to ”use of a State-level approach…for a [specific] State” but I do wonder who drafted the language of operative paragraph 21 requesting “the Secretariat to report to the BOG on the conceptualization… of the State-level concept…”

It should not surprise the IAEA Secretariat that a number of the agency’s 158 member states are somewhat befuddled and mystified by all this.