The nuclear energy industry that NEI represents and serves includes: Commercial electricity generation; Nuclear medicine including diagnostics and therapy; Food processing and agricultural applications; Industrial and manufacturing applications; Uranium mining and processing; Nuclear fuel and radioactive materials manufacturing; Transportation of radioactive materials; and Nuclear waste management
NEI is governed by a 47-member board of directors. The board includes representatives from the nation's 27 nuclear utilities, plant designers, architect/engineering firms and fuel cycle companies. Eighteen members of the board serve on the executive committee, which is responsible for NEI's business and policy affairs.
In April 2004, the Austin Chronicle reported that NEI has hired the Potomac Communications Group to ghostwrite pro-nuclear op-ed columns to be submitted to local newspapers under the name of local residents. In 2003 story in the Columbus Dispatch , NEI said that it engaged a public affairs agency to identify individuals with technical expertise in the nuclear energy industry to participate in the public debate. However, as many of these individuals have little experience in opinion writing for a non-technical audience, the agency provides assistance if requested, a common industry practice.
In 1999, Public Citizen filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission charging that an NEI advertising campaign overstated the environmental benefits of nuclear energy to consumers living in markets where sales of electricity had been deregulated. In a ruling the following December, the FTC rejected those claims concluding: NEI did not violate the law; agreed that the advertisements were directed to policymakers and opinion leaders in forums that principally reach those who set national policy on energy and environmental issues, and therefore did not constitute "commercial speech"; noted that in different circumstances, such as direct marketing of electricity, such advertising could be considered commercial speech and be subject to stricter substantiation.
The Institute continues to run ads with similar content, most recently debuting a new ad in September 2006 touting nuclear energy's non-emitting character and the role it can play in reducing American dependence on foreign sources of fossil fuels like oil and natural gas.
In 2008, Greenpeace criticised NEI's public relations efforts and suggested that NEI's advertising about nuclear power was an example of greenwashing.. In the first quarter of 2008 the NEI spend $320,000 on lobbying the US federal government. Besides Congress, the nuclear group lobbied the White House, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy and others in the first three months of the year. The NEI spent $1.3 million to lobby the federal government in 2007.