The McMaster Nuclear Reactor is equipped with an air-driven pneumatic (or “rabbit”) system designed for short neutron irradiations and rapid retrieval of samples. The sample is sealed in a polyethylene capsule and sent from a loading station in either the Reactor Building or the Nuclear Research Building to any of three irradiation positions on the east face of the reactor core.

The length of irradiation (usually ranging from seconds to minutes) is controlled manually or automatically, after which the pneumatic system diverts the sample either to a shielded fumehood for manual sample retrieval, or loads it directly onto the gamma counting equipment available at the Centre for Neutron Activation Analysis.

Rabbit irradiations are used for many applications including undergraduate laboratory experiments, isotope production and neutron activation analysis, particularly for the detection and quantification of short-lived isotopes.