Apple's support for RAW files in iPhoto has caused some confusion. The following facts may shed some light on it for you:
RAW files are considered to be "digital negatives" that aren't to be modified, so changes you make are always saved to a secondary file. As a result, on import, iPhoto converts the RAW file to JPEG and stores the RAW file itself in the Originals folder. Alternatively, you can set iPhoto to save edited RAW files as 16-bit TIFFs.
You never work on the RAW file directly, only on its JPEG or TIFF stand-in. If you wish to throw out your edits and start a new copy from the RAW file again, use Revert to Original.
Because of the large size of uncompressed RAW files and the JPEG conversion that occurs during import, the import process takes a long time with RAW files.
The first time you edit a RAW file, iPhoto displays a RAW badge in the lower right corner of the window.
Scrolling may seem slower when browsing through large thumbnails of RAW files. The problem is that when you're using a thumbnail size larger than the actual thumbnails, iPhoto must load the original photo to create the thumbnail. That's a slower process. To speed up scrolling, press 2 while in organize mode to zoom to thumbnail size (press 0 to zoom to the smallest size and 1 to zoom to the largest size).
To export a RAW file in RAW format, choose Original from the Format pop-up menu in the Export Photos dialog.
For more info, see http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=300879.