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Refining a book review

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In an otherwise fascinating review of A Nuclear Family Vacation ("A bigger bang," May 28), Bronwen Dickey claims that Iran is an "oil-rich nation that does not have the capacity to refine its own oil." It is indeed true that Iran has limited capacity for refining lighter fuels, such as gasoline, but according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, Iran has the capacity to refine 1.5 million barrels of oil per day, with the potential to refine 2.4 million per day by 2012. It is also true that Iran has claimed that it seeks nuclear power for domestic energy production. But the key assertion—that lack of refining capacity leads to nuclear development—does not logically follow. There's no financial or technical barrier to Iran's increasing refining capacity to meet domestic fossil fuel demand. Iran's interests in nuclear power may be benign or sinister, but its capacity to refine petroleum has little to do with these interests.

Tom Birkland
Cary

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