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This paper proposes an expert system approach to short-term expansion planning (STEP). The rules which drive STEP can be classified into MW, MVAR, and ampacity management rules. MW and ampacity management rules are for alleviating transmission line congestion. Reactive power management is required for voltage control at load busses, conformity to the capacity curve of the generators, and containing the MW losses within acceptable limits. Embedding reactive power management in STEP is a challenging task since ac load flow may not converge in absence of proper reactive power planning and load modeling. Therefore, we also propose enhancements to the fast decoupled load flow algorithm for on-the-fly reactive power management. The enhanced algorithm not only can detect divergent load flow scenarios but also self-correct it by restarting the whole process with greater degree of freedom in reactive power controls. The proposed approach leads to development of an automated tool for STEP which has the capability to work, even with incomplete information. A simple method for evaluating location and requirement of shunt reactor is also proposed. By analysis and comparative evaluation, we show that the proposed system can arrive at a solution which is close to optimal. Results on the Western Regional Grid of India with an approximate load of 28 000 MW and 1200 nodes are presented to demonstrate effectiveness of the proposed approach.