I've been researching FileVault 2 to make sure that I understand it before I enable it on my Mac. While reading Macworld's Complete guide to FileVault 2 in Lion, I encountered an unexpected caveat (emphasis mine):
It's probably worth mentioning that someone who steals a FileVault-enabled Mac can never shut down or restart the machine without losing access to the booted machine's startup drive. (Although they probably wouldn't realize this until after shutting down or restarting.) This also means they can't install updates that require a restart, let the battery run down to zero, or even wipe the hard drive clean and reinstall the OS to get a "working" computer.
This doesn't make sense to me. In my mental model of FileVault 2, a tiny decryption program stored on the hard drive is loaded during the boot process. This program asks the user for the key and uses it to begin decrypting the drive and start the OS. If you were to reinstall the OS, it would overwrite the decryption program and boot normally.
Why can't you reinstall the OS on a FileVault 2-encrypted drive?