Leading academics and lawyers from more than 50 universities across 40 countries have challenged the legality of France's decision to resume nuclear testing in the South Pacific.
The academics have prepared a letter and legal memorandum to be delivered to French president Jacques Chirac on Monday - the day after the fiftieth anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima - pointing out that France will breach its international treaty obligations if it goes ahead with the tests. David Anton, lecturer in international and environmental law at Melbourne University, organised the challenge by contacting colleagues around the globe via the Internet.
After researching the field, Mr Anton discovered that France should have conducted an independent and public environmental impact assessment before making any decision.
"There are several treaty obligations that France will violate if the tests go ahead," Mr Anton said, "primarily its failure to carry out the assessment which is required under customary international law and the convention for the protection of natural resources in the South Pacific region."
Mr Anton said that France was a signatory to the convention and that French Polynesia, including the Mururoa atoll where the tests are to occur, were covered by the convention.
He said he had asked the Australian prime minister, Paul Keating, to summon the French ambassador on Monday and endorse the substance of the academics' letter as part of Australia's protests against the nuclear testing.
The memorandum notes that there is considerable scientific evidence and opinion that French nuclear testing has already polluted the marine environment with radioactivity and that the resumption of testing could result in more damage.